A Response to the Massacre in Pittsburgh

I'm just sick about the massacre of innocent people, grandmothers and great grandmothers, no less, in a Pittsburgh synagogue because they were Jewish or were police officers defending them during worship services. I can't even believe I just typed "because they were Jewish." Oh, my heart hurts.  Last week, I wrote about the courage of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood children's TV show, and yesterday I learned the Tree of Life Synagogue is in Fred Roger's real neighborhood. Look to the helpers he said, again and again in a recorded voice from the grave on radio news programs. There were so many from police officers and EMTs to emergency room nurses and city officials. I hold on tight to them.  But how can I be one? In that all too familiar way, as soon as I heard the news, I wondered if my neighbor from Pittsburgh, a big Steeler's fan, had any connection. She does. Tree of Life was her home synagogue. I asked Sue if there was anything I could do for her, and she said yes,  "Please share this" :

In the beginning or, in Hebrew, B’reisheet.  These are the first words of Genesis.  The first words of the foundation of our Judeo-Christian faith.  Genesis is also the theme of the beautiful stained glass windows in the sanctuary of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, the scene of this weekend’s assault weapon massacre of worshippers and police.
I grew up in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue and spent many hours inspired by those windows, learning a language, songs, and faith thousands of years old. Another place of worship, another school, another group of peaceful Americans and the police who respond to protect us mowed down.  Where do we begin?  Why can’t we even begin to address this madness?  As Alaskans we are uniquely positioned to move this long overdue conversation forward. Don Young, our sole representative, is also the sole member of Congress on the board of the National Rifle Association.   He is obligated to a hardened point of view that blocks rational discussion when Americans cry out as we bury our innocent and those who serve.  Where are the NRA board members when parishioners and school custodians are washing the blood off the walls?As Alaskans, we can send a new representative to Congress independent of this powerful lobby who can at least participate in steps to walk us away from this depth. We can vote for Alyse Galvin.   Like many Alaskans, she comes from a family of gun-owning hunters.  But, she offers an independent voice. Is this political opportunism? No.

In the Jewish tradition we honor the dead and those who mourn every day with the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer.  But, the prayer is not about death.  The prayer honors the glory of life and creation.  
So, get out and vote.  This time vote to begin the conversation.  
For all my friends who are police officers and troopers.  For all my Alaska Native friends who understand that ancient cultures should be able to peacefully teach their traditions.  For all my young friends headed to kindergarten and high school and their teachers.  For the church goers in Texas and South Carolina, for the country music lovers in Las Vegas.  
And, for my many gun-loving, NRA-member friends who know full well that anyone with a shred of skill doesn’t need an assault weapon to go hunting. Yes, there are many layers to these tragedies.  Hate, racism, mental health problems.  But, we’re the ones who are crazy if we don’t change. 

Genesis teaches us.  Let us begin.

  Sue Libenson

(Note: Alaskans aren't the only ones voting this fall. No matter where you are, choose candidates wisely, as if your life, or the lives of people you love, depend on it.)




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