Statement of Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), on the Tragedy in Pittsburgh

Leader of Global Jewish Human Rights Group Denounces Environment of Hate

“The AJWS family mourns the tragic loss of life at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. This was one of the deadliest attacks on Jews in American history, rooted in virulent anti-Semitism and unvarnished hatred of immigrants and refugees. We hold the Jewish community of Pittsburgh in our hearts—mourning the dead and sending our hopes for recovery to the wounded and the traumatized. We shall never forget or forgive this crime.

“In recent days, the killer in Pittsburgh denounced our sister organization, HIAS, in his hateful social media posts, attacking HIAS for its deeply principled and valuable work in bringing refugees to the United States and helping them resettle here. We applaud HIAS for more than a century of work to “welcome the stranger” to these shores—from Jewish families who sought freedom and security from persecution to people of all ethnicities and nationalities worldwide who need compassion and justice today. We stand with HIAS, and we ask all people of good conscience to do so as well at this tragic time.

“Around the world today, AJWS supports the most vulnerable and oppressed people on this planet, inspired by the same Jewish commitment to justice that motivates HIAS. The vision of the world we work for every day is one in which people of diverse cultural, religious, ethnic and intellectual backgrounds and identities will live, without exception, in dignity and respect. A world of democratic societies in which the human rights of all will be upheld. This vision is rooted in the lessons of Jewish history, which teach us that no group should suffer oppression, intolerance or murder. This vision is also anchored by our powerful belief that all people are created b’tselem Elohim—in the image of the creator—and are thus equally deserving of respect and rights.

“While the murderer in Pittsburgh authored his own hateful social media posts and pulled the trigger himself, he was most certainly emboldened by the rising anti-Jewish, racist, anti-refugee and transphobic rhetoric from the President of the United States and his supporters. In fact, much of the responsibility for this increasingly hateful environment lies with the president. Just this Friday, President Trump declared himself a “nationalist,” denounced “globalists” (often a code word for Jews), and called for George Soros, a liberal Jewish philanthropist, to be “locked up.” And at his rallies, participants have shouted anti-Jewish taunts at the press with no protest from the president. And just over a year ago, the president failed to clearly denounce white supremacists and Nazis, who rampaged and killed in Charlottesville and shouted the anti-Semitic slogan, “Jews will not replace us.”

“In this time, it is crucial that we join with people of every background in the United States and around the world to turn back the tide of hate and intolerance, racism and anti-Semitism—and understand the connections between them. This is our urgent work, if we are to live in the kind of democratic, respectful and diverse world anchored by human rights that we wish for ourselves, for all people and for generations to come. We must join together to heal our very broken world.”

 

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About American Jewish World Service (AJWS)

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is the leading Jewish organization working to fight poverty and pursue justice in the developing world. By supporting hundreds of social change organizations in 19 countries, we respond to the most pressing issues of our time—from disasters, genocide and hunger, to the persecution of women and minorities worldwide. With Jewish values and a global reach, AJWS is making a difference in millions of lives and bringing a more just and equitable world closer for all.

 

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