Tree of Life Synagogue Memorials
A memorial outside the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh is seen during the visit of President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump on Oct. 30, 2018. {White House Photo by Andrea Hanks}

By Kevin Deutsch

U.S. Representative Ted Deutch on Wednesday commemorated the third anniversary of the Tree of Life Synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh—the deadliest act of antisemitic violence in U.S. history—while urging federal action to combat rising hatred against Jewish people.

Deutch, who represents Parkland and Coral Springs and serves as co-Chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, as well as a member of the Interparliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism, joined members of the government groups in Washington, D.C. to examine online trends in U.S. antisemitism since the killings, including dangerous rhetoric on both the far left and right wings of the political spectrum.

“Three years ago today, a white supremacist opened fire on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh,” said Deutch. “Three years ago today, 11 worshippers were murdered, not just because they were Jewish, but also because they came to Synagogue on a Shabbat designated to welcome immigrants and refugees.”

The people killed in the synagogue attack were Joyce Feinberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Melvin Wax, Daniel Stein, and Irving Younger.

In addition to honoring the victims, Deutch held a press conference with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Chris Smith, and fellow members of the Interparliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism to “highlight the necessary and bipartisan next steps for Congress and the Biden Administration to combat antisemitism and prevent future violence,” Deutch said in a prepared statement.

“Antisemitism is real, it is dangerous, and it poses a growing threat not only to the Jewish community but to all communities…We need to fight antisemitism in all its forms, wherever it comes from, [and we] share a bipartisan commitment to eradicating antisemitism on the far right and the far left,” Deutch said.

Joining the bipartisan group Wednesday were two experts from the American Jewish Committee, Holly Huffnagle, U.S. Director for Combating Antisemitism, and Avi Mayer, Managing Director for Public Affairs, shared the committee’s alarming new report on domestic antisemitism.

Among AJC’s findings: Approximately one in four (24 percent) American Jews have been the target of antisemitism over the past 12 months: Seventeen percent said they had been the targets of antisemitic remarks in person, 12 percent said they had been the targets of antisemitism online or on social media. Three percent said they had been the victims of physical attacks.

Consequently, approximately four out of every ten American Jews (39 percent) have changed their behavior out of fear of antisemitism. The report found: 25 percent have avoided posting content online that would enable others to identify them as Jewish or reveal their views on Jewish issues; 22 percent have avoided wearing or displaying things that might enable others to identify them as Jewish; and 17 percent have avoided certain places, events, or situations due to concerns about their safety or comfort as Jew.

“It is no wonder that over 30 percent of Jews in 2021 felt the need to change their behavior to avoid antisemitic retaliation—and young Jews have been especially impacted by that fear,” said Deutch.

“What we learned today is shocking but not surprising.”

Among the steps activists fighting antisemitism say the U.S. government should take is speedy Senate confirmation of historian and author Deborah Lipstadt, the Biden administration’s nominee to become State Department special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

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Author Profile

Kevin Deutsch
Kevin Deutsch
Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.