Together we mourn, and we commit ourselves

Together we mourn, and we commit ourselves
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The mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh devastated communities across America. We mourn the loss of life, and in our mourning, we must face what this has revealed about the state of our nation. We must commit ourselves to work.

The gunman’s statements on social media show how anti-Semitism is intertwined with a particular vision for this country — a vision that sees this country as a safe haven for some people and not for others. The gunman’s words on social media specifically called out HIAS, the Jewish refugee agency, for its dedication to resettling refugees from all religious and ethnic backgrounds. The gunman hated Jewish people, and he especially hated the welcome that the Jewish community extended to other groups he despised.


We can’t disentangle anti-Semitism from anti-Muslim sentiment from anti-immigrant sentiment from white supremacy, because these forms of hate all drink from the same well. And we can’t disentangle the Tree of Life massacre from the murder of two black Americans in Kentucky just days earlier — shot dead in a Kroger store after the gunman first tried to enter a black church.

In the wake of this unspeakable tragedy I, Rabbi Burton Visotzky, am not surprised that the condolences I received first and foremost were from my Muslim friends and colleagues all over the world. They know that an attack on any one house of worship is an attack on all places of prayer. They know that hatred for one religion is a danger to all. And we all know that the only way to overcome this hatred, taught of late from the very center of American power, is to stand shoulder to shoulder, standing together for American values and decency.

Together we mourn, and we commit ourselves to work together against all forms of violence and hate, united in solidarity and love.

I, Sayyid Syeed, weep with my Jewish siblings in this moment of deep pain. Many times the Jewish community has come alongside my own Muslim community in the face of violence. Our communities, along with so many others, have felt firsthand the consequences of hate. We have seen that words are never just words; words have ripple effects and have the power to inflict wounds, and even death, as we have just seen in Pittsburgh.

Together we mourn, and we commit ourselves to call out those who use hateful words to divide us against one another, and to love our neighbors in active, tangible ways that honor the dignity and worth of each and every person.

An attack on worshippers is an attack on religious liberty. Like so many, I, Amanda Tyler, am heartbroken and grieving this vicious act of violence and hatred. I’m praying for Tree of Life synagogue and all our sisters and brothers whose very existence is under threat. We live in a nation that lifts up religious liberty as an essential ideal. It isn’t a luxury; it is core to what it means to be an American. And yet, when we see people targeted in their very places of worship, we know this ideal is not yet realized.

Together we mourn, and we commit ourselves to educate our communities and build stronger interfaith bonds to better uphold our American ideals of religious freedom for all people who seek a country in which they are safe and free.

The gunman in Pittsburgh has a particular vision for this country, marked by exclusion and hate. We have a different vision.

Together we mourn, and together we — three faith leaders from different traditions — commit ourselves to work to make our country the place that it can and should be: a place where all are equal, no matter their religion or lack thereof, and are able to worship without the threat of violence. In our mourning and our shared commitments, we seek to honor the lives of those who are now gone from this world.

As faith leaders, we will continue to do our part to advance the America that can be, and we call on our elected officials to do the same. Our nation is strongest when the individuals and communities that make it up are working together for the good of everyone, not just the good of some. That’s the only way forward.

Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky is director of Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at Jewish Theological Seminary.
Amanda Tyler is executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
Dr. Sayyid Syeed is the president of the Islamic Society of North America.