Religious Freedom and Mass Murder

It's been a long week, and it's only Tuesday. (or Wednesday.) Two stories about the mass murder in Squirrel Hill, PA this Saturday.

A Prayer for Squirrel Hill—And for American Jewry

The Pittsburgh synagogue killings show that dormant hatreds have reawakened

Franklin Foer
Staff writer for The Atlantic
"When Rabbi Joseph Miller learned of the Squirrel Hill massacre, less than a mile from his own pulpit, he ordered the doors of his synagogue locked. Despite his congregants’ terror that they would be next, they recited the mi sheberach. They didn’t pray for their own protection; they prayed for the healing of others.

"An ancestor of mine died in synagogue. He lived in western Ukraine, where the Holocaust arrived suddenly in the form of Einsatzgruppen, death squads pushing ever east, traversing dirt roads and deep forest to cleanse even the most remote villages of Jews. When the Nazis arrived in his town, my great-great-grandfather was deep in prayer at the synagogue. The Nazis locked the doors of the small wooden structure and then set it aflame. It is a story that cannot be unheard. When I stand in my synagogue and my mind meanders, I often wonder what he prayed at that moment.

"The Sabbath is a rupture in the architecture of time, a day set apart. For those who practice the ritual, it is a moment of disconnection from the week—a temporal void that is supposed to be kept clear of work, technology, and concern for material things. The Sabbath has evolved, by design, to be a moment of vulnerability, where secular armor is placed in the spiritual locker, permitting connection with God."


The Jews of Pittsburgh Bury Their Dead

Jewish tradition teaches that bodies cannot be left alone. The community has come together to guard the victims of Saturday’s shooting.

Emma Green
"Under other circumstances, Daniel Leger might be among those making sure the 11 Jews who were murdered in Pittsburgh are cared for in death. He is the leader of Pittsburgh’s liberal chevre kadisha—the committee responsible for tending to and preparing bodies before burial. Instead, he is in the hospital. He is one of the two congregants and four police officers who were injured in this week’s horrific attack.

"The Pittsburgh morgue sits in a squat cement building on a street with little light, sandwiched between a bar and a highway. The door was locked and the lobby quiet on Sunday evening; few people were out in the chilly, intermittent rain. A sign on the door instructed visitors to use a nearby phone to reach the security desk. Throughout the night, someone new would be arriving each hour. They were the shomrim, or guards.

"Jewish tradition teaches that the dead cannot be left alone. Some call it a sign of respect for people in death, as in life. Others say that the soul, or nefesh, is connected to the body until it is buried, or even for days afterward, and people must be present as it completes its transition into the next world."


I'm Pagan; I've never let myself get worked up about "The Burning Times" but at the same time, I've done interfaith work for almost ten years now, because I know what could happen if times get bad. I consciously do interfaith work to make a place for area Pagans. No drama, right? No rescue my peeps fantasies... I just show up. I'm here. There are more of me scattered around the community. You won't particularly see them, but we are here, and if times get bad, we are vulnerable.

This congregation lost 11 elders in one blow. One was a Holocaust survivor. I think others had lost family in the Holocaust. They were the backbone of their religious community. I remember back at the turn of the millennium when I was attending a Universalist Unitarian service, something went wrong with the microphone or the A/C or something, and one of the old guys in the pews jumped up and disappeared into the back room. And the minister leaned on the pulpit and said, "You can always tell who the elders are in the congregation, because when something blows out, one of them jumps up without being asked and goes off to fix it." And here's this congregation who, suddenly, don't have enough people to properly tend their dead. And there's this congregation down the road, who locked themselves in and went on praying. Oh, and by the way, this was the week with multiple bomb threats around the country. The KKK loved bombing black churches. What if somebody wants to throw a bomb at us? Just to switch it up a bit...Oh, and hey, The Donald is saying if you were born in the U.S. but your parents were immigrants, he is going to take back your citizenship? How is a minority (with a long history of persecution) supposed to deal with the shell shock?

And what happens if somebody notices us little ole Pagans?

David Trammel's picture

The wackos are definitely coming out and causing problems this turn in the Long Descent. I saw there was a shooting at a yoga studio this weekend. Why things may be a bit better economically the next few years, I think we will see an increase in violent attacks.

While some of these may be racially or religiously motivated, I worry that the Media will stock every act of random violence as something that is pitting factions of us against each other. I don't think for a minute that the Left side of the media empire and the Right Side, don't serve the same masters.

I read Dmitry Orlov's blog regularly. He's veered a bit into Russian cheerleader terroritory recently ("Ra! Ra! We're the Best!") but he continues to offer an alternative veiw of things. He posted this last month

(unfortunately its behind his pantheon paywall)

"The goal of the 0.01%, therefore, is to keep the financial-commercial scheme functioning at a sufficient level to adequately serve their own needs, never mind anyone else, and to keep the politicians in their pockets to make this possible. As to the rest of humanity… well, they are problematic. If culture and society remain intact, then, once they realize that the whole system is rigged against them and in favor of the 0.01%, they might organize and start a revolution. If, on the other hand, society and culture have been undermined and destroyed beforehand, then they will lack the social cohesion and the public spirit needed for such an endeavor, and will simply wander around pushing a shopping cart filled with their meager possessions, digging around in the garbage and sleeping rough."

I don't for a moment doubt that if the fringe elements that Fox likes to encourage were to begin targeting wealth CEOs with violence that Fox would do a 180 and be reporting 24/7 about domestic terrorist and how the government has to crack down on them.

There are a variety of simple techniques for self defense and making yourself look less of a target, that those of us who were in the early survivalist movements know and which we can't talk about on this forum. Hopefully we can on the new one. Until then just keep an eye out for your surroundings.

Let's be careful about blaming the victims. It's too easy to say, "Well, they should locked the synagogue/school/office... They should have had metal detectors/armed guards/open carry." That normalizes violence. That's part of the #Metoo movement. For ages women have been told if they hadn't been dressed wrong/walking alone/drinking they wouldn't have been raped. They were "asking for it."

The women killed in the yoga studio was not "asking for it." They were doing yoga. Scott Paul Beierle walked into the Hot Yoga place and started shooting because he was 40 years old and not getting laid. I sh*t you not. He identified himself as an "involuntary celibate" or "incel" This is a genuine thing, and apparently a lot of these rabid puppies hate women in yoga pants. I'm sorry but no one is entitled to get laid.

David Trammel's picture

I'm not blaming the victims (hopefully that wasn't aimed at me?) but it does beg to wonder, why not lock the doors to a place of worship, in times when violent individuals might commit a armed attack?

I once worked with a man who had been born in Bosnia, before the secretarian violence and civil war of the early 90s. His family emigrated to the United States. I asked him once why they moved here. His reply was "When the grenade was thrown through our front door, we decided it was time to leave."

Saint Louis and the Illinois city across the river of East St Louis, have areas that are frankly places I wouldn't want my car to break down in. Its not so much because I'm a elderly white man and assume those areas are all of people of color. Most poor areas are quite racially mixed. As a elderly white man, I realize that I would be perceived as a desirable target. Should I not take the precaution of avoiding those areas?

For a while I worked as a delivery driver and majority of the packages I delivered were copying machine toner cartridges, many to small businesses, schools and churches. Some in those same areas. I made it a habit to lock my van doors behind me there, and didn't in more affluent areas. Is that being prudent or judgmental?

As of last year, Missouri allows concealed carry of a handgun by any adult (within some restrictions) without a license. I do at times carry a pistol on me but its more along the lines of 1 trip in a hundred. Is this being paranoid or is it just recognizing the reality of today's society?

I don't blame people when some nut job commits a act of violence but I do think that too many people today, have an unrealistic expectation that everyone will be kind, polite and non-violent. I am saying that there are simple methods to be aware of your situation and your surroundings, and to take steps to protect yourself without being paranoid or over reactive.

During the Winter months, I always have a very heavy coat and a blanket in the car so that if I break down and must wait for a tow, I will be warm. Same thing.