JVL Introduction

We reproduce the Jewish Socialists’ Group immediate response to the tragedy of the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre which speaks for us all. And Rabbi Brant Rosen urges us to “never underestimate the sacred power of solidarity. Moments such as these must remind all targeted minorities that we are always stronger when we resist together”.

Is Trump to blame? Yes as Sasha Abramsky’s analysis in The Nation makes abundantly clear. And Mehdi Hasan’s in the Intercept, though published immediately before news of the shooting broke.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau refused to call the site of the Pittsburgh massacre a synagogue because it is non-Orthodox. And Avi Gabbay, leader of the Israeli Labor Party concludes that it is time for American Jews to make aliyah! To which we can only repeat Rabbi Rosen’s words above and stand in solidarity with all minorities in the face of racism.


Photo: Vigil for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, at the Cable Street mural, Sunday 28th October 2018

Pittsburgh Shooting

Jewish Socialists’ Group statement on the attack against the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday 27th October 2018, when the congregation had gathered for the weekly service.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group sends solidarity, condolences and love to the Jewish community in Pittsburgh following the racist atrocity carried out against the congregation of the Tree of Life synagogue.

The perpetrator, Robert Bowers, is a Nazi sympathiser, an extreme nationalist, and a conspiracy theorist, who believes that the Jews are bringing in “invaders”, by which he means refugees, such as the thousands of desperate Honduran people travelling through Mexico to seek a safe future in the United States. We know this because he has openly posted his hate-filled views on social media, starting with: “jews are the children of satan”.

As he walked into the synagogue building, he shouted: “All Jews must die!” He targeted these people simply because they are Jews; and he chose these particular Jews because the Tree of Life congregation are local partners of HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which works to resettle refugees.

This shocking attack, said to be the worst hate crime in Pittsburgh’s history, is part of a growing pattern of racist violence across the States, ranging from pipe bombs sent to Trump’s political opponents to two black people being gunned down in a Kentucky supermarket by a man shouting “Whites don’t kill whites!”

The most extreme fascistic and white supremacist ideas and movements were marginalised in the USA by the success of the Civil Rights movement, but a powerful strand of racism has continued to be part of the fabric of American life. Now, though, Trump’s vicious hostility to all America’s minorities, including people of colour, Muslims, Jews, indigenous peoples and Hispanics, has lifted the lid on this suppurating bitterness and hostility, which has never been effectively addressed or challenged. Now, the hate-filled racist policies, actions, speeches and tweets coming from Trump and the people around him have given permission to racists and fascists to declare and act on their inhuman beliefs.

This is not unique to the United States. In Britain, racists and fascists are expressing their hatred more openly and claiming a right to take over our streets, promote a violently divisive “explanation” for the hardships so many people are suffering, and make minority communities feel unsafe as they go about their lives. We know that far right movements are making frightening gains right across Europe and we need to stop this process now. The only way we can do that is together.

All the minority communities being targeted urgently need to work with each other and in mutual solidarity to get these people off our streets, out of our media, out of the institutions that run our society, and out of government. Not just here in Britain. The growing far right is an international phenomenon, and we have to recognise that and challenge it with our antifascist allies across the world. Nor is it just minorities that are in the frame. Fascism threatens the future of everyone who wants and needs to live in a civilised, democratic, humane society, and we need to find common ground, resolve our differences and fight this together, urgently.

We remember all those killed in the fascist terror attack in the synagogue in Pittsburgh:
Joyce Feinberg, 75
Richard Gotfried, 65
Rose Malinger, 97, who had survived the Holocaust
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Cesil Rosenthal, 59
David Rosenthal, 54
Bernice Simon, 84
Sylvan Simon, 86
Daniel Stein, 71
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Younger, 69

When someone dies, Jews say: “May their memory be for a blessing.” It is our obligation now, in their memory, to end the hatred that generates such carnage and destruction.


Responding to Anti-Semitic Violence With Solidarity’s Sacred Power

Rabbi Brant Rosen
29 October 2018

photo via Getty images

Like so many, when I first heard the news of the horrific shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday, I went immediately to the news and could not turn away. The initial reports were sketchy and inconclusive. Eventually it became clear that the outcome was as horrible as we could possibly have feared. 11 Shabbat worshippers at Tree of Life synagogue have been killed. Six people wounded.

Then, like so many, I sought any information I could find about the alleged shooter. I learned that he was a white supremacist named Albert Bowers and that among other things, he had a particular fixation with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the venerable Jewish organization that works to aid and resettle refugees from Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Apparently HIAS had recently sponsored a National Refugee Shabbat as “a moment for congregations, organizations, and individuals around the country to create a Shabbat experience dedicated to refugees.” Bowers posted the list of participating congregations on Gab, an alt-right social media site, with the words: “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us? We appreciate the list of friends you have provided.”

Bowers also reposted another white supremacist’s post that read: “It’s the filthy EVIL jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!! Stop the kikes then Worry About the Muslims!” Finally, he wrote this ominous post: “HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

Shortly after, he entered Tree of Life Synagogue armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and at least three handguns.

For those trying to make sense of this senseless moment, two things seem immediately clear. One is that the growth of far-right white supremacy (not so-called “Muslim extremism,” the fear of which is stoked by racism and xenophobia) is the most significant threat to Jewish safety and security in the US. Another is that many white supremacists view both Jews and Muslims as a threat to their “way of life” in the United States.

Moreover, we know that Jews of color; Jews with disabilities; trans, queer and nonbinary Jews; Jewish immigrants and Jews from other marginalized groups are targeted in multiple ways, as overt white supremacist violence festers around the country.

What then, might be the appropriate response this terrible tragedy? I would suggest that the answer, as ever, is solidarity.

What might this solidarity look like? Here’s an example: In September 2017, protests filled the streets of St. Louis after a white former city policeman, Jason Stockley, was found not guilty of the first-degree murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, a Black 24-year-old whom he shot to death on December 20, 2011. The St. Louis police eventually used tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators. Some of the demonstrators retreated to Central Reform Congregation of St. Louis, which opened its doors to the protesters. (The police actually followed them and surrounded the synagogue. During the standoff, a surge of anti-Semitic statements trended on Twitter under the hashtag #GasTheSynagogue.)

Another example: last year, a 27-year-old man entered a mosque in Quebec City and opened fire on a room filled with Muslim worshippers, killing six men and wounding another 16. The following week, Holy Blossom Temple, a Toronto synagogue, organized an action in which multi-faith groups formed protective circles around at least half a dozen mosques. It was inspired by the “Ring of Peace” created by about 1,000 Muslims around an Oslo synagogue in 2015, following a string of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe.

Returning to the current moment: Very soon after the news of the shooting broke, Muslim organizations and organizations led by other communities targeted by white supremacist violence responded with fundraisers for the victims and their families. And I was heartened to read on Sunday about an interfaith candlelight vigil of solidarity with Tree of Life Congregation that took place last night in downtown Chicago. Among the primary sponsors: the Chicago office of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Here is how the vigil was described:

Join an interfaith, inter-community vigil of solidarity in memory of the fallen members of the Tree of Life Synagogue, and those killed in Kentucky earlier this week. Anti-Semitism can have no home in America. We must call it out directly as well as speaking out against homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, sexism, and bigotry of all forms. Join us to mourn, pray, and stand in solidarity.

Yes, among the many important takeaways from this terrible, tragic moment is the simple truth that we must never underestimate the sacred power of solidarity. Moments such as these must remind all targeted minorities that we are always stronger when we resist together.


The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Is the ​Inevitable Result of​ Trump’s Vile Nationalism

Shame on all those who have been silent—or, worse, supported the president’s agenda.

Bower’s twitter postings, however, give at least a partial window into his soul. The man is a rabid nationalist. He believes that Jews seek to control the world. He is convinced that Jews, via HIAS, the refugee-rights and -resettlement organization formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, are bringing in “invaders”—such as the caravan of destitute and terrified Central American families walking their way north through Mexico.

Bowers is a Nazi sympathizer. And, unlike Cesar Sayoc, the man suspected of mailing more than a dozen pipe bombs to political and media figures around the country over the past week, he hates Trump, believing that Trump isn’t nearly nationalist enough and, in fact, is controlled by a cabal of globalist Jews.

But here’s the thing: While Bowers might fashion himself as an anti-Trump figure, the reemergence of deadly anti-Semitic violence perfectly fits the awful political moment Trump himself is presiding over. The viciously nationalist rhetoric Trump now uses at his rallies, his onslaught against “globalists”—the word itself, along with “cosmopolitan” has always been anti-Semitic code for “Jewish”—his demonizing of immigrants, of refugees, of asylum seekers, his accusation that George Soros is somehow behind the caravan of Hondurans and Guatemalans, this is quite simply fodder for anti-Semites. “Soros” to anti-Semites in 2018 is a similar slur to “Rothschild” in the previous century.

Most American Jews are all too aware of what Trump’s rhetoric and actions can lead to. While much of the Orthodox community supported him in 2016, the overwhelming majority of Jewish voters did not. An American Jewish Committee poll last year found that 77 percent of US Jews opposed Trump. In solidarity with other immigrants’ rights organizations, groups like HIAS have continually sounded the alarm on the toxic nature of Trumpism. And the rabbi of the synagogue that was attacked today himself penned an article earlier this year warning of the dangers of both the gun culture and the anti-immigrant moment. “Our school students deserve better. Immigrant families deserve better. We deserve better,” he wrote.

And yet, two years into his violent, nationalist presidency, a number of high-profile Jewish political and business figures continue to support and enable his presidency. Despite the fact that Trump has repeatedly dallied with the far right of US politics; despite the fact that the KKK supports him and that fascist websites such as The Daily Stormer routinely cheer him on; despite the fact that he found it impossible to unequivocally condemn neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville last summer; despite the fact he retweets tweets from virulent, conspiracy-minded organizations and individuals; despite the fact that several of his speeches over the past two years eerily echo language from speeches given by Mussolini and Hitler—despite all this, Jewish advisers to, and backers of, Trump such as Sheldon Adelson, Jared Kushner, and Stephen Miller have utterly abnegated their responsibility to call him to account.

Non-Jewish advisers and cabinet members have, of course, similarly failed in this basic moral duty. In fact, as the nationalist rhetoric, the incitement to violence, has intensified over the past months, none of Trump’s inner circle, Jewish or otherwise, have taken a principled stand and withdrawn their support for the Make America Great Again movement. None have tried to staunch the moral bleed.

But, as I sit at my desk and try to make sense of the utterly senseless taking of life at a synagogue named “Tree of Life,” I find myself particularly horrified by Jewish enablers of the Trumpian madness, all of whom know only too well the vast destruction that Jews suffered in the recent past at the hands of bigoted nationalists.

Make a devil’s bargain, and, inevitably that bargain boomerangs. Adelson, for example, channels tens of millions of dollars into backing Trump, because he likes Trump’s ultra-tough stance on behalf of Netanyahu’s particular vision for Israel. Well, in the short-term Adelson gets the chest-thumping president and administration he wants. In the long-term, however, he helps unleash a violent, blood-and-soil nationalism in the United States—encompassing Trump supporters such as Cesar Sayoc, but also people like Bowers who think Trump is far too moderate—that will, as we see now in Pittsburgh, chew up in its maw anything and anyone seen to be “outsider.”

Miller, whose own ancestors were refugees, has helped Trump shred America’s immigration system, imposing untold misery on huge numbers of people through policies like “family separation”; the drastic contraction in the number of refugees admitted; travel bans against people from several Muslim-majority countries; the denial of visas to same-sex partners of diplomats; the rethinking of “public charge” definitions so as to lock out poorer immigrants; and now the language of “national emergency” and the calling up of hundreds of active-duty soldiers against members of the Central American caravan.

Of course, none of these people are individually responsible for Bower’s heinous act. But they all are intelligent enough, well-read enough, to know that throughout history nationalist movements at some point include Jews among their enemies.

To all of Trump’s advisers and supporters who have spent the past years standing by silently while The Boss spits bile and injects venom into the political discourse, shame on you. The demonizing of the vulnerable is never morally justified; nor is it, ultimately, containable. When the most powerful man on earth uses his podium to dehumanize entire groups, it comes as no surprise when others, with less overt power but just as much animus, take up arms.

When Muslims, as a group, are seen as being a lethal threat to Christians; when American “nationalists” are rallied by political leaders to oppose outsiders who “infest” this land, as Trump put it a few months back, it’s no surprise that, eventually, other religious and ethnic minorities, including Jews, will also come to be seen as the enemy by many in the violent nationalist camp.

Sometimes arms will be taken up, as apparently was the case with Sayoc, in the name of the Great Leader. Other times, as with Bowers, they will be taken up ostensibly to finish a job the Great Leader has not followed through on.

It is past time for this viciousness, this godawful bloodshed, to stop. Whether the targets are Muslims or Jews, African Americans or Guatemalans, nothing justifies the toxic rhetoric and actions now coursing through the American body-politic. It is time for a moral awakening among ordinary American men, women, and children that shuts down this nationalist dystopia unleashed by Trump and his acolytes before it destroys us all.



Here Is a List of Far-Right Attackers Trump Inspired. Cesar Sayoc Wasn’t the First — and Won’t Be the Last.

Mehdi Hasan, The Intercept
27 October 2018


Update: October 27, 2018, 4:30 p.m. EDT
Minutes after this story was published, news reports confirmed that multiple people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had been killed by a gunman. The gunman taken into custody has been linked to anti-Jewish and anti-immigrant posts on social media. At least 11 people were killed and six injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

President Donald Trump is a threat to national security.

He preaches hate. He incites violence. He inspires attacks.

We knew this before Friday’s arrest of Cesar Sayoc, who has been charged with a number of crimes in connection with more than a dozen pipe bombs sent to the nation’s most prominent Democrats, among others. As my colleague Trevor Aaronson has written, Sayoc is “a fervent Trump supporter.” Check out his vanhis posts on social media, or the testimony of his colleagues.

I have no doubt that Trump helped radicalize Sayoc. Yet Trump apologists are keen to distance their hero from this particular villain. So too, of course, is the president himself. “We have seen an effort by the media in recent hours to use the sinister actions of one individual to score political points against me,” Trump said at a campaign rally on Friday evening.

“One individual”? Who is he kidding? Sayoc may be the latest individual to have combined his love for Trump with a love for violence against Trump’s opponents, but he is far from the first to do so. In fact, there have been a number of violent threats, attacks, and killings linked to Trump supporters in recent years — few of which have dominated the headlines in the same way as Sayoc’s alleged attempt to assassinate top Democrats, including two former U.S. presidents, has.

Since the summer of 2015, a bevy of Trump supporters, fans, and sympathizers have beaten, shot, stabbed, run over, and bombed their fellow Americans. They have taken innocent lives while aping the president’s violent rhetoric, echoing his racist conspiracy theories, and, as in the case of Sayoc, targeting the exact same people and organizations that Trump loudly and repeatedly targets at his rallies and on Twitter: Muslims, refugees, immigrants, the Clintons, CNN, and left-wing protesters, among others.

We cannot allow Trump’s apologists on Fox News and in Congress to pretend that this was a one-off; that the charges against Sayoc aren’t part of a growing and disturbing trend of violent crimes against minorities and the media perpetrated by far-right, pro-Trump individuals and militias.

So, here is a (partial) list of Trump supporters who are alleged to have carried out horrific attacks in recent years — some of them seemingly inspired by the president himself.

Scott Leader and Steve Leader, August 2015

On August 19, 2015, Scott Leader, 38, and his brother, Steve Leader, 30, attacked a homeless man in Boston who they wrongly believed to be an undocumented immigrant.

“Donald Trump was right,” they told police, after beating the man with a metal pipe and then urinating on him. “All these illegals need to be deported.”

Trump’s response? He eventually called it a “terrible” incident, but only after an earlier statement to reporters in which the then-candidate referred to his supporters as “very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that.”

Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright, and Patrick Eugene Stein, October 2016

On October 14, 2016, the FBI arrested three men — Patrick Eugene Stein, Curtis Allen, and Gavin Wright — for plotting a series of bomb attacks against the Somali-American community of Garden City, Kansas. Calling themselves “the Crusaders,” they had planned to launch, on the day after the November 2016 presidential election, what The Guardian said “could have been the deadliest domestic terror attack since the Oklahoma bombing in 1995.”

Two of these three men were open supporters of Trump and were obsessed with anti-Muslim, anti-refugee conspiracy theories. For Stein, according to a profile in New York magazine, Trump was “the Man.” Allen wrote on Facebook: “I personally back Donald Trump.” The trio even asked a federal judge to boost the number of pro-Trump jurors at their trial (at which they were found guilty of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and of conspiring against rights).

Trump’s response? The president, who once suggested that Americans had “suffered enough” from an influx of Somali refugees, has never been asked about these three militiamen and has never condemned their plot.

Alexandre Bissonnette, January 2017

On the evening of January 29, 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire on worshippers at the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City, Canada, killing six of them and wounding 19.

Bisonnette, 27, was obsessed with Trump: He searched for the president on Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube more than 800 times between January 1, 2017, and the day of the shooting. A former university classmate told the Toronto Globe and Mail that he “frequently argued” with Bissonette over the latter’s support for Trump.

In his police interrogation video, Bissonnette can be heard telling officers that he decided to attack the mosque after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a message of welcome to refugees in the wake of the U.S. president’s travel ban — which was issued two days before the mosque attack.

Trump’s response? The president may have expressed his condolences to the Canadian premier in private, but he has never publicly mentioned the shooting, the killer, or the six dead Muslims.

Michael Hari, Michael McWhorter, and Joe Morris, August 2017

In March 2018, three alleged members of a far-right militia — Michael Hari, Michael McWhorter, and Joe Morris — were charged in connection with the August 5, 2017, bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. McWhorter is alleged to have told an FBI agent that the attack was an attempt “to scare” Muslims “out of the country.”

Back in 2017, Hari, who owns a security company, submitted a $10 billion proposal to build Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. “We would look at the wall as not just a physical barrier to immigration but also as a symbol of the American determination to defend our culture, our language, our heritage, from any outsiders,” Hari said. Sound familiar?

Hari is also alleged to be the ringleader of a group called “White Rabbit Militia – Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters, Three Percent,” which has posted online messages about “Deep State activities” and “the attempt of the FBI to wiretap the Trump campaign and interfere in the election.”

Trump’s response? To date, the president has never publicly referenced, let alone condemned, the bomb attack on the Minnesota mosque. His then-adviser Sebastian Gorka suggested the incident might “have been propagated by the left.”

James Alex Fields Jr., August 2017

On August 12, 2017, a car crashed into a crowd of people protesting a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The alleged driver of the car, James Alex Fields Jr., has been charged with, among other crimes, hit-and-run and first-degree murder.

Fields, according to a former middle school classmate, enjoyed drawing swastikas and talked about “loving Hitler.” The registered Republican, according to a former high school teacher, also adored Trump. In an interview with the Associated Press, the former teacher “said Fields was a big Trump supporter because of what he believed to be Trump’s views on race. Trump’s proposal to build a border wall with Mexico was particularly appealing to Fields.”

Trump’s response? The president called the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville “very fine people” just three days after Fields allegedly killed Heyer.

Brandon Griesemer, January 2018

On January 9 and 10, 2018, 19-year-old Brandon Griesemer allegedly made 22 calls to CNN. In four of those calls, the part-time grocery clerk from Novi, Michigan, threatened to kill employees at the network’s Atlanta headquarters, according to a federal affidavit.

“Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down,” he told a CNN operator. Again, sound familiar? Trump has spent his entire presidency slamming CNN as “fake news,” singling out the network for criticism and abuse. According to the Washington Post, a high school classmate of Griesemer described him as a Trump supporter who “came in after the election and was very happy.” The classmate, reported the Post, “compared Griesemer’s reaction to that of a fan whose team had won a big game.”

Trump’s reaction? On the morning of January 23, the day after news broke of Griesemer’s threats against CNN, the president took to Twitter to mock … yep, you guessed it … “Fake News CNN.”

Nikolas Cruz, February 2018

On the afternoon of February 14, 2018, 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

According to an investigation by CNN, Cruz was part of a private Instagram group in which he “repeatedly espoused racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views” and “bragged about writing a letter to President Donald Trump — and receiving a response.”

Cruz also posted a photo of himself on Instagram wearing one of Trump’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hats, with an American flag-patterned bandana covering the bottom half of his face. Former classmates have confirmed that he also wore the red Trump hat to school.

Trump’s response? The White House has never confirmed or denied whether they received, or responded to, a letter from Cruz.

I could go on and on. I could tell you about Jeremy Christian, who allegedly stabbed two people to death on a train in Portland, Oregon, and wrote, “If Donald Trump is the Next Hitler then I am joining his SS”; or James Jackson, who confessed to fatally stabbing a homeless black man in New York and subscribed to far-right YouTube channels that support Trump; or Sean Urbanski, who allegedly stabbed a black U.S. army lieutenant to death and “liked memes about Donald Trump“; or Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who allegedly killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School in Texas, and who followed only 13 Instagram accounts, including the official accounts for the White House, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Melania Trump.

The truth is that the sooner we all recognize that the president of the United States is helping to radicalize a new generation of angry far-right men, the better.

It would be wrong, of course, to blame Trump alone for these attacks. Many of these alleged attackers have mental health issues; quite a few of them were also men of violence, intolerance, and bigotry long before Trump launched his political career.

To pretend, however, that the president has nothing to do with these violent criminals or their violent crimes is absurd. To compare the sheer number of Trump supporters who have been charged or convicted for attacks and attempted attacks on Muslims or Latinos or journalists with the single supporter of Bernie Sanders who shot Republican Congressman Steve Scalise in June 2017 is disingenuous. To ignore the way in which Trump has set a vicious tone and created a toxic climate is shameful.

“It’s time we recognize that Trump’s unique social media presence is a weapon of radicalization,” wrote Republican strategist and Trump critic Rick Wilson on Friday. “No one else in the American political landscape stokes the resentments, fears, and prejudices of his base with equal power.”

The president may not be pulling the trigger or planting the bomb, but he is enabling much of the hatred behind those acts. He is giving aid and comfort to angry white men by offering them clear targets — and then failing to fully denounce their violence. Is it any wonder, then, that hate crimes are on the rise? Or that, as one study found, “one in five perpetrators of hate violence incidents referenced President Trump, a Trump policy, or a Trump campaign slogan” between November 2016 and November 2017?

Cesar Sayoc was not the first Trump supporter who allegedly tried to kill and maim those on the receiving end of Trump’s demonizing rhetoric. And, sadly, he won’t be the last.