Pittsburgh shooting leaves devastation

A mass shooting occurred in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, leaving 11 people dead in a Jewish synagogue.

Photo courtesy of the New York Post

Brooke Torres, Freelance Writer

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An elderly Jewish congregation was attending their usual Saturday morning service on Oct. 27 when the shooter, identified as 46-year-old Robert D. Bowers, opened fire with an AR-15-style assault rifle. 11 people inside of the synagogue were shot and killed. Bowers then exited the synagogue, where he was was met by police. Shots were exchanged leaving four police officers wounded. Bowers was also injured in the gunfire.

The tragedy which took place at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is now known as one of the deadliest hate crimes against the Jewish community in the United States. Although the tragedy occurred on the other side of the country, its effect on students and faculty on Biola’s campus is apparent.

Professor of history and Middle Eastern studies Judith Mendelsohn Rood is a Jewish Christian who attended The Tree of Life synagogue with her family from nursery school to second grade. In a phone interview she explained that her father is still a member of the congregation and is a Holocaust survivor along with his parents. Her family, including her two sons Samuel and Joshua, both alumni of Biola, resonate very personally with the devastation that occurred on Saturday and continue to support the Jewish community. Rood will be retiring from Biola soon, partially because of the difficulty she has had with reteaching and explaining the tragedies that have occurred to the Jewish people over time and even now.

PEERS AFFECTED

Junior Christian ministries major Leia Brown is also a Jewish Christian. Upon settling into a plane headed back to Biola from a work meeting for Jews for Jesus, Brown received an article from a friend about the shooting in Pittsburgh.

“It was shocking at first and took time to process that people actually died and this is something that happened. I processed it the whole plane ride… The first thing I did was I prayed over everything that happened,” Brown said.

THE DAMAGE DONE

Understandably, many in the Jewish community currently feel vulnerable and somewhat weary of their surroundings.

“It makes it hard to walk around in public wearing my Star of David necklace. I saw on Facebook my friend… has a Mezuzah, which is something you put on your door and you kiss it as you walk in, and she was like, ‘Thank God people can’t see it from the street,’” Brown said. “So, it’s hard that that’s how people feel after that and it’s hard to walk around and not know what people are thinking about you.”

Junior accounting major Joey Cohen saw the traumatizing affects the shooting had on his fellow Jewish Christian friends.

“Some of my friends who do go to synagogue, they now have armed security guards pretty much at every synagogue. Even friends in Orange County who go to Shuvah Yisrael… in the last couple months my friends’ synagogue has received death threats,” Cohen said.

Cohen has grandparents on his father’s side who grew up and lived in New York when anti-semitism was at an all-time high in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

“They weren’t able to eat at restaurants, restaurants with signs saying, ‘No Jews allowed,’… Even though there aren’t discrimination laws anymore, there are still serious pockets of real anti-semitism and hatred,” Cohen said. “It’s another reminder that racism and prejudice and anti-semitism still is real throughout the world… I pray that Jewish people will come to Christ even in the midst of the absolute pain and unspeakable tragedy that they just went through.”

UNDERSTANDING THE HORRIFIC EVENT

Cohen continued with what he hopes the public will learn from this calamity that happened in Pittsburgh. “It’s just another reminder that racism and prejudice exist everywhere and even anti-semitism that isn’t really thought of much, still is real throughout the world,” he said.

Brown expressed the importance of awareness in order for the current reality to change.

“I think a lot of times people think that things have gone away. Like after the Holocaust, ‘Oh it’s just gone,’ but it’s not, because it just happened,” Brown said. “I think it’s just something we all need to be aware of and just to remember that Jewish people are included in the whole civil rights movement. We’re included, people hate us. It’s hard because you think it’s gone away but it just comes back.”