Thursday, October 24, 2019

One Year Later

The horrific shootings at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh occurred one year ago this weekend. I shared my thoughts in the immediacy of this tragedy and wrote another post about the victims. So what has happened in the last year? Did Pittsburgh become a turning point and become the last mass shooting in America? Sadly, we all know the answer to this. Shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and Virginia Beach rightfully received significant coverage, but there have been even more shootings in the last 12 months. "Time" listed those that occurred through in 2019 July. Did the government finally decide that enough was enough and enact legislation for background checks or restricting certain types of weapons? Of course not. With that written, I’ll give Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto credit for trying to do something, even though it will likely be tied up in courts for years.

So what has changed in the last year? I’ll write about my personal experiences 250 miles away from Tree of Life, the synagogue I attended growing up and where my brother and I had our Bar Mitzvahs. My current synagogue underwent a security assessment resulting in numerous changes including things related to locks and cameras with the most notable being an emergency alert system inside the building. (It’s basically a fire alarm system, but instead of pulling it to immediately contact the fire department, this immediately contacts the police.) Naturally, none of this was in the budget which necessitated a fairly substantial fundraising campaign. There are always police at the building for services and during religious school. My kids probably don’t think twice about this and are used to seeing police every time they go to the synagogue, but I am not. Yes, I’m glad they are there, but I don’t want them to be there. I don’t like having to think about someone potentially attacking the synagogue and needing a police presence to discourage or stop this every time I go to pray or to drop off my kids.

What really struck me was the rabbi saying that she was encouraged (presumably by law enforcement) to keep her cell phone on during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in case she needed it for an emergency. I get that cell phones are everywhere, but the sanctuary is one of the few places where you don't expect them, and particularly on the podium used by the rabbi.

I’m sure that my synagogue isn't alone. Many churches, mosques, and other religious institutions around the country have likely done similar things. So what has changed in the last 12 months? Besides additional security and the costs associated with it, I don't know. I wish that I had some type of insightful or meaningful conclusion here, but I don't. The people who lost family and friends much too soon certainly honor and remember their loved ones. This will especially be the case this weekend on the anniversary. You just hope and pray that something like this doesn't happen again. You thank the police officers for helping protect people (particularly the Pittsburgh police officers who were wounded in the line of duty when responding to the Tree of Life shootings). And perhaps we can also see more instances of people coming together like what happened in Pittsburgh in the days and weeks after October 27, 2018.

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