“There are no words.”
This was what I heard most often last weekend from those who were stunned by the news: 11 people were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh — believed to be the largest massacre of Jews on American soil. But there are words for this, entire books full of words: the books the murdered people were reading at the hour of their deaths. News reports described these victims as praying, but Jewish prayer is not primarily personal or spontaneous. It is communal reading. Public recitations of ancient words, scripts compiled centuries ago and nearly identical in every synagogue in the world. A lot of those words are about exactly this.
When I told my children what had happened, they didn’t ask why; they knew. “Because some people hate Jews,” they said. How did these American children know that? They shrugged. “It’s like the Passover story,” my 9-year-old told me. “And the Hanukkah story. And the Purim story. And the Babylonians, and the Romans.” My children are descendants of Holocaust survivors, but they didn’t go that far forward in history. The words were already there.
The people murdered in Pittsburgh were mostly old, because the old are the pillars of Jewish life, full of days and memories. They are the ones who come to synagogue first, the ones who know the words by heart. The oldest victim was Rose Mallinger, 97….
Amazingly powerful recitation of history. https://t.co/z5e3rdjp66
— Rick Cruse (@zoomuse) November 5, 2018