By Zack Block
Zack Block is a lifelong Pittsburgher committed to building an equitable Pittsburgh. Zack is also the Senior Director of Communities for Repair the World and the Executive Director of Repair the World Pittsburgh.
As a lifelong Pittsburgher, a Squirrel Hill resident, and a white Ashkenazi Jew, seeing my community in the news for a mass shooting was shocking, difficult, and hard to comprehend. On October 27, 2018, one year ago today, our community was violently attacked in one of the most horrific acts of antisemitism, white nationalism, and hatred this country has seen. I live a few blocks away from the Tree of Life building, and on the day of the shooting, I was first in disbelief, and then horrified. Then, quickly, I jumped into action. I took phone calls at the JCC from the FBI’s hotline and I spoke to the families of the victims. In the last year, I have replayed those phone calls and conversations over and over again in my head. In the last year, I witnessed the ways the Jewish community came together and the way the larger Pittsburgh community grappled with the massacre. In the last year, I have cried, mourned, grown, and learned. And in the last year, I have been pushed to understand that the outpouring of love and support my community received actively causes harm to communities of color, who do not receive similar outpourings of support when they experience their own horrific tragedies.
While the Jewish community is targeted by more hate crimes than other religious groups in the US, systems of government, society, and culture are set up to cause much more harm to communities of color than to white Jews and white Jewish communities.
Crimes committed against communities of color do not get reported in the media with as much consistency and intensity as crimes committed against the Jewish community. Fewer eyes on the issues translates to less support for healing and recovery. No matter the community, we all deserve equal attention, love, and support during times of tragedy.
It is time for us to embody Jewish values and work alongside communities of color to create a more just and equitable society. Cross-community connections and relationships have been intentionally severed by white nationalism, which looks to pit different minority groups against each other for white nationalism’s own benefit. Showing up through service and ongoing volunteering helps to repair those crucial connections that we will lean on during times of acute and ongoing crisis.
At Repair the World Pittsburgh, we are shining a bright light on racism and antisemitism and islamophobia and xenophobia and all the hate that keeps people oppressed in the name of white nationalism. It has been one year since the horrific shooting at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. Please join us over the next year as we have hard conversations and serve with others to help heal, to show solidarity, and to strengthen our relationships and communities.
Over the weekend, Repair cities across the country will mark the one-year commemoration of Tree of Life in service and learning alongside local communities. And, in Pittsburgh, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, JCC of Greater of Pittsburgh, JFCS Pittsburgh, and other countless partners, we will facilitate learning at 30 service projects to serve in solidarity with our local neighbors.