At Pittsburgh Anti-Hate Summit, Tree of Life shooting is a warning to all – J.


Standing in front of a crowd of several hundred people, Pittsburgh resident Michele Rosenthal welcomed attendees to the Eradicate Hate World Summit on Monday, remembering her brothers, Cecil and David Rosenthal.

Rosenthal’s voice broke as she remembered her brothers and the events of three years ago, when a gunman killed them and nine others at the Tree of Life synagogue complex here in Pittsburgh.

Cecil and David, she said, were good men who lived good lives. She recalled how they were affectionately known as the “mayors” of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, how they bought flowers for their mother, how they were treated like members of the local fire department and how they often shared a cup of tea with Tree. of Life. Guardian.

“They didn’t judge anyone,” Rosenthal said. “Not by religion, color or ethnicity. They are my example, and they should be your example too.

The 2021 Global Hate Eradication Summit, which took place October 18-20, hosted over 100 experts on hate and extremism. They were tasked with not only sharing their expertise, but also spending the next year working on specific ‘deliverables’ that will be assessed at next year’s summit, said Laura Ellsworth, senior partner in charge of global initiatives. Community Service Desk for Jones Day Law Firm. .

Ellsworth co-chaired the summit with Mark Nordenberg, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh. The Tree of Life building massacre was significant above the summit, which was designed after the attack, Nordenberg said.

“Laura called and said, ‘We have to do something to make Pittsburgh better known, not for being the site of this attack, but for its effective and constructive response to hate,” “Nordenberg told the audience.

Ellsworth, who is not Jewish but said she was “a close friend of a number of people who were present or lost loved ones on that terrible day,” accused attendees of having passed the 12 months to develop solutions to fight hate. Assessments of these proposals will take place at the summit next year, she said.

The summit panels cast a wide net in their definition of ‘the eradication of hate’, but seemed largely to focus on identifying how hate speech and violent actions have metastasized in the age of hate. social media. Some focused on security: A cryptocurrency panel discussed how “bad actors” have used largely untraceable online payments to fund terrorist operations.

RELATED: What the Tree of Life Filming Revealed About America’s Jewish Community

Others focused on legislation: Several speakers discussed the need for better regulation of social media to prevent the spread of hate speech online. (Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act, which effectively immunizes Internet publishers from legal liability for the content that users post to their site, was a hot topic; many conservative lawmakers have sought in recent months to repeal or revoke reform the law, claiming it provides a shield for partisan attacks.)

The third day of the summit again rotated to discuss responses from victims. Other panels covered the gamut from discussions of national counterterrorism laws to the link between online discourse and real-world violence in Myanmar.

Even with such a wide range of topics covered at the summit, and so many prominent speakers, including video recordings of former President George W. Bush and current Jewish Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas , the organizers were careful to re-emphasize why they were all gathered in Pittsburgh on this precise date.

Before the various summit sessions began, Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers of Tree of Life addressed the audience and made an invocation. He said that if it had not been for the massacre of three years ago, which occurred in the middle of Shabbat services, he would have read the portion of today’s Torah, which describes the Patriarch Abraham welcoming three unknown guests to his home.

The focus on Tree of Life continued throughout the summit, which also included a preview of an upcoming public television documentary on the massacre.

Rita Katz, Executive Director and Founder of SITE Intelligence Group, explained to summit attendees how the man who attacked three congregations at the Tree of Life building became an emblem of extremism and violence in the years since the slaughter. Katz shared a theory she called “the ‘screw your optics’ chain,” referring to a social media post the alleged shooter wrote just before his October 27 attack: “All Jews must die Screw your optics, I’m going in.

She described the links between the attack on Pittsburgh, fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment as well as anti-Semitism and widely promoted by hate groups online, and other attacks that followed: the attack on the mosque from Christchurch in New Zealand; the attack on a Chabad Center in Poway, California; a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas; the attempted terrorist attack on a mosque in Norway; and a foiled attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany.

Keynote speaker Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke about the role social media has played in the rise of anti-Semitism and other manifestations of hate. “What begins with the Jews,” said Greenblatt, “never ends with the Jews.”

Greenblatt denounced the anti-Semitism of right-wing extremists as well as that coming from the political left, including the BDS movement on college campuses. “Anti-Zionism is outright anti-Semitism,” he said.

What begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews.

The president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Jeff Finkelstein, who introduced Greenblatt, was on the planning committee for the summit.

“It’s a great way for our community to share with global hate experts,” Finkelstein told The Chronicle. “But it’s not a program on Pittsburgh, although the program takes place in Pittsburgh. It’s a way of remembering what happened here.

The goals of the conference, Finkelstein said, go beyond the fight against anti-Semitism.

“Remember, it’s ‘anti-hate’,” he said. “Anti-Semitism is a piece of hate. It is hate as a broad subject.

Speakers at the top spoke of hatred beyond anti-Semitism. Gary Locke, former governor of Washington, spoke of the experience of anti-Asian hatred during his tenure; other speakers came from the Arab-American Institute, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Asian-American Foundation. No speakers representing Latino or LGBT + groups were on the agenda.

In his pre-recorded remarks, Bush thanked those present for undertaking the important work of combating hate. “It is a bridge against the biggest divisions of our country,” he said.

Brad Orsini, who served as director of community safety for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh from 2017-2020, said he was happy with the summit.

“This is the first step in getting everyone together and seeing what the deliverables are and getting some really tangible results on the back end,” he said.

However, not everyone shared Orsini’s optimism.

Progressive Jewish group Bend the Arc Jewish Action: Pittsburgh and local Latino immigrant advocacy group Casa San Jose Latino Resource and Welcome Center released a joint statement expressing disappointment that Bush, Mayorkas and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge were keynote speakers at the summit, saying the Department of Homeland Security, created under Bush’s leadership, “has exploited anti-Islamic fervor” in its war on terrorism.

“Their inclusion,” the statement said, “undermines the bold and admirable mission of the World Summit to Eradicate Hate and turns a blind eye to the roots of the hatred that led to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.”

A week before the three-day event, eyewitnesses to the Tree of Life shooting, testifying at a preliminary hearing, said the alleged perpetrator made anti-Semitic comments during his outburst. During the summit, the perpetrator of the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and is reprinted with permission. Additional reports by JTA staff.

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