Our Reflections on the Shooting Tragedy in Pittsburgh, PA

On behalf of the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work, we express our heartfelt sorrow and condolences to the family and friends of the 11 members of Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) Synagogue who were tragically killed while praying and studying Torah on the Sabbath. We know the impact of this anti-Semitic attack goes well beyond Tree of Life, affecting individuals across the country, abroad and Jewish communities.

As we reflect on this act of violence—as well as recent bomb threats, murders motivated by racism and homophobia, and other acts of hate—we may feel sad and disillusioned. In these challenging times, it is and more important than ever to maintain our resolve to make things better, to help heal the world. Despite increased incidents of anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry, we also see acts of bravery, compassion, altruism and hope. The responses of law enforcement personnel and medical professionals in Pittsburgh were truly heroic. The outpouring of love and support from people of many different faiths, beliefs, and cultures has shown that we can come together and begin to heal.

As we move forward, each of us can make a difference. We can reach out to those of different backgrounds and beliefs, building bridges, opening communication, and learning about each other. We can challenge bigotry by promoting greater understanding, respect and acceptance. We can advocate for legal and social policy reforms to foster safety and security for all. We can enhance social work and mental health services to help identify people at risk and offer early intervention and support. We can also become more involved politically to ensure that our leaders focus on issues of safety, security, equality, and acceptance. Even small acts of social action, advocacy, kindness, and compassion may have significant effects.

“Shalom” (peace) is not just a greeting or a prayer; it is an action that we must take.