Editorial: Have We Learned Nothing?

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St. Anthony’s Shrine in Sri Lanka was a target of a series of terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday. (Photo by AntanO via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

A mere six months ago, Shabbat services were being held at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. It started out like any other Saturday morning for the group of worshipers, heading to synagogue to pray.

But hours later, Anderson Cooper was reading off a list of 11 Jewish people killed at the synagogue, which is meant to serve—as the name suggests—as a tree of life. Eleven people.

That’s not OK. We don’t live in Nazi Germany. We live in the United States of America. No one, no matter the religion or even location, should walk into a house of prayer worried about whether or not they are safe.

But after seeing headlines showing the Easter massacre in Sri Lanka, with dozens of reporters saying that nation’s government was actually warned about the attacks, it’s hard to believe that the world, as a whole, has learned absolutely nothing from the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. And now 253 more people are dead.

The massacre in Pittsburgh should have been a wake-up call for the entire world. The NYPD and NCPD have been cooperating to great extents with local houses of worship. The NYPD successfully prevented a man from burning down Manhattan’s famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral the week of Easter.

That’s the type of coordination that needs to happen. If people have even the slightest thought that someone is plotting an evil act, the police need to be made aware.

But it goes further than that.

For the Jewish High Holy Days, the NYPD and NCPD contact all synagogues to make sure they haven’t received threats and assure the clergy there will be a police presence in the area to make sure nothing interrupts the prayer service. It’s sad to say that we need police near synagogues in America in the 21st century, but that’s the reality we live in.

This is just the start. Houses of worship have been attacked too often. Board members of these institutions need to find ways to have doors locked at all times. If they don’t want to do that, they can raise money to hire an armed security guard during times of prayer.

The safety of congregations should be at the forefront of every congregation of every religious house of worship. The congregation at the Tree of Life synagogue didn’t think this would happen to them. But it did.

Now, another synagogue has been attacked. One person is dead and three were injured, including the rabbi. This is not OK.

Let’s work together as a society and prevent this from happening ever again.

—Joseph Wolkin

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear from you! Send a letter to the editor to kdijkstra@antonmediagroup.com.

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