A Letter to my Friends

October 29, 2018
Los Angeles, CA

A Letter to my Friends

From Rabbi Corinne Copnick

You are undoubtedly grieving, as I am, over the shocking, hate-fuelled murders at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, as well as the evil sentiments behind them. It is a time for mourning and consolation.

And then it will be a time for serious thought. No matter what euphemisms are employed – white nationalists, alt-right , extremists – there is little doubt now that elements of the Nazi party are alive and well in America.

What can ensure its growth, unfortunately, is a leader inflated with power, someone with access to a bully pulpit who can call out the appropriate “dog whistles” to activate the crazies, to bring them out of the woodwork. When the President of the United States looks directly into the camera and declares, “I am a nationalist,” that is such a dog whistle. It calls “the troops” into action. And I think the President of the United States is smart enough to know what he is doing.

So was the dog whistle intentional? I leave that for you to decide. Was it intentional when Trump, again looking into the camera, asked the memorable question, “Russia, are you listening?”

A respected historian, commenting on television yesterday on the atrocities at the synagogue, explained that the young men seduced by this deceptive rhetoric (such as the Charlottesville torch-bearers declaiming “The Jews will not replace us”) take pride in calling themselves “Trumpenkriegers.” The Germanic name apparently refers to “foot soldiers.” They declare themselves foot soldiers doing the dirty work for Trump.

On the day previous to the synagogue shootings, most Americans were still reeling over the attempted assassination by mailed pipe bombs of respected democratic leaders strong enough to take a stand against forces that denigrate – and try to destroy –the very principles on which this amazing country was founded. Only a day before, and only days before the mid-term elections, the media was consumed with these attempted murders by pipe bomb that had just taken place. Then, the very next day, the topic was actual murder by massacre.

Many of the synagogues and Jewish institutions in Los Angeles, where I live, already have security guards, at considerable cost. But the solution to the problems we are facing today is not to turn America into a fortress.

It is all too easy to proclaim glibly “Never Again,” as our President did at a recent rally.  We must ensure that history does not repeat itself.

I am invited to attend a meeting at the Museum of Tolerance in L.A. The purpose is to memorialize the horrific events that took place in wartime (WWII) Budapest with eyewitness accounts. Let us pray that our own grandchildren will not have to memorialize tragic events still to take place in this beautiful country if we do not prevent them from happening.

Let us pray in holy memory of those who were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue, with deep compassion for their mourning families, and in solidarity with those who survived and those still in need of recovery. And let us pray for the soul of America. We are all in need of healing.