Hate can't diminish 'Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood'

I live in Squirrel Hill, one of the most enduring Jewish communities in the United States, and the site of a...

Posted: Oct 29, 2018 9:13 PM
Updated: Oct 29, 2018 9:13 PM

I live in Squirrel Hill, one of the most enduring Jewish communities in the United States, and the site of a terrorist attack Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue, just three blocks from my house.

I can hear news helicopters over my house as I write. I'm grateful for the media that are reporting the truth of what happened here. I cannot tell you why a person would fire into a group of worshipers at prayer. But I am a political scientist, so I know a bit about the anger and hatred many ordinary Americans have against people they label as "the other."

Anti-semitism

Celebrities

Discrimination

Fred Rogers

Jewish people

Minority and ethnic groups

Racism and racial discrimination

Societal issues

Society

I know most Americans would never think of doing something so heinous, and yet many people participate in and contribute to the bigotry and stereotyping that apparently gave a sick, angry man the idea to commit this evil crime.

The dehumanizing needs to stop.

Practicing Jews make up less than 2% of the American population, and nearly all of that population lives in cities and suburbs, mostly in the Northeast. That means that a large majority of non-Jewish Americans are not familiar with Jews in their daily lives. In fact, for some, all they think they know of Jews are the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about an international Jewish cabal that fester on social media, the kinds of lies that allegedly prompted Robert Bowers to bring terror to my neighborhood.

I have seen friends and family, people I love and who I know love me, share false memes on social media about how George Soros and other Jews are orchestrating the so-called "caravan" of migrants from Central America. I do not believe these people know this falsehood is part of an anti-Semitic lie about how Jews secretly control world events. I do not believe when they shared the memes, they were thinking they could prompt someone to attack my neighborhood. But people have become so angry, so distrustful, that they have become unknowingly complicit in the spread of this dangerous lie.

So as a non-Jew, let me tell you a little bit about what it is like to live in Squirrel Hill. This is, quite literally, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Fred Rogers filmed his show just down the road from here. Both my boys have met David Newell, the actor who played Mr. McFeely ("Speedy delivery!"), because we just happened upon him as we walked along the shops and restaurants here.

The entire community of Squirrel Hill, including the Tree of Life synagogue, is within an eruv. Orthodox Jews are not permitted to carry things -- even a baby or their keys -- outside of their homes on the Sabbath. An eruv is a ritual enclosure (it is mostly made of strings, which you wouldn't notice if you weren't looking) that transforms our community into the equivalent of one large private home. The eruv makes it easier for Orthodox Jews to move around, but it reinforces the idea that this community is our home.

Squirrel Hill is an urban neighborhood within Pittsburgh. But my children are allowed to walk by themselves to the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Public Library or to Rita's for frozen custard. It is safe here. On Saturday night, hundreds of us gathered at the corner of Murray and Forbes at a candlelight vigil. The students at Taylor Allderdice High School arranged it themselves. They said they did it because they didn't want to be alone and they didn't think we wanted to be alone, either. This is a beautiful community.

You should visit. You would like it here.

But if you can't visit, please consider being careful to avoid the pitfalls that come with defining people you do not know as "the other." How? First, don't spread unsourced internet memes. We know that foreign nationals tried to tamper with our election in 2016, and that they are doing it again.

Second, educate yourself. We know a lot about how people can manipulate people's fear and anger of "outsiders" to further their own agendas. The Anti-Defamation League and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have resources to help you learn how you might be manipulated.

Finally, tune out politicians who try to stoke fear and anger about people different from you. Fear and anger are powerful motivators. They are a good way to get people to participate and to vote. But they aren't good for our national discourse. They aren't good for you. And as Saturday's events make clear, they are not good for this beautiful, peaceful neighborhood.

West Lafayette
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 18°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 16°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 25° Lo: 12°
Feels Like: 18°
Fowler
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 18°
Williamsport
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 17°
Crawfordsville
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 17°
Frankfort
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 16°
Delphi
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 19°
Monticello
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 16°
Feels Like: 19°
Logansport
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 18°
Decreasing clouds this afternoon with slightly warmer temperatures
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1130719

Reported Deaths: 17736
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1468762242
Lake732391255
Allen68004883
Hamilton51739488
St. Joseph50459650
Elkhart40619547
Vanderburgh34963497
Tippecanoe31212276
Johnson27963467
Hendricks26585385
Porter25969387
Madison21318457
Clark20392279
Vigo19244309
LaPorte17405261
Delaware17004303
Howard16942315
Monroe16794220
Kosciusko14447167
Hancock13259186
Bartholomew13180191
Warrick12320190
Wayne12200269
Grant12181247
Floyd12096226
Morgan10552192
Boone9966124
Noble9429123
Marshall9295147
Henry9268169
Dearborn9053100
Dubois8877140
Shelby8402130
Cass8241128
Lawrence8134185
DeKalb7933109
Jackson779993
Huntington7761116
Montgomery7213123
Gibson7179118
Harrison7031100
Knox6958116
Steuben676589
Miami6675114
Whitley667260
Putnam651286
Clinton633179
Wabash6323111
Jasper622192
Jefferson5946105
Ripley565994
Adams547981
Daviess5124118
Scott498980
Wells4894106
White486069
Greene4749101
Clay468662
Decatur4659110
Fayette462597
Jennings457167
LaGrange432291
Posey412944
Randolph4010107
Washington393656
Fountain382264
Fulton368374
Spencer365147
Starke361474
Owen358577
Sullivan351155
Jay336450
Orange335272
Rush314833
Carroll301639
Franklin295244
Perry292853
Vermillion285958
Tipton253367
Parke251630
Pike251244
Blackford224944
Pulaski213759
Newton185052
Brown179750
Benton171717
Crawford170729
Martin152619
Switzerland149412
Warren137816
Union125116
Ohio92913
Unassigned0599

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events