On Tuesday night, you spoke before the nation and said the state of our union is strong. Here in Pittsburgh, we are strong, but our state is still fragile. The bravery of Officer Matson and the resilience of Judah Samet demonstrate Pittsburgh’s strength in the face of hatred and violence.
But make no mistake: Jews in Pittsburgh cannot feel secure while our President refuses to unequivocally denounce white nationalism, an ideology that fuels antisemitic hatred.
Denouncing antisemitism is important, but it does not get at the root of the problem. The murderer who attacked our friends and neighbors at Tree of Life was not just an antisemite; he was a white nationalist who imagined immigrants as a danger to our country, and Jews as the evil masterminds bringing that danger to undermine white society. His antisemitism was not incidental to his racism; it was a core component of it.
For the past three years your anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric and policies have emboldened a violent white nationalist movement. Your constant denigration of migrants, refugees, people of color—along with your references to antisemitic conspiracy theories— directly incited this violence.
We will not let you use the Holocaust, our most painful history, to distract us from the real dangers at hand—the dangers you yourself have nurtured with your racism and xenophobia. We will not let you use Jewish histories of exclusion, genocide, and statelessness to distract us from your administration’s policies and ideologies that echo back to those dangerous times. We do not need to look back to 1945 to find victims of exclusion. There are refugees seeking safety in America today, just as our Jewish parents and grandparents did during the Holocaust, yet once again America is calling them dangerous and trapping them in their countries’ humanitarian crises. There are internment camps at our southern border and thousands of children separated from their parents by your administration.
If we are to really change the world for the better, the lessons we should take from the Holocaust are not only how Americans liberated the camps, but also how they refused entry to many Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. Americans may have liberated Dachau, but they also turned away the MS St. Louis.
The Jews of Pittsburgh know that the violence plaguing our country does not come from refugees and undocumented immigrants. According to the Anti-Defamation League, right-wing ideologues were responsible for 98% of the domestic “extremist-related” killings in 2018, with white supremacists accounting for 78% of those murders. If you truly cared about the safety of American Jews—or any other group of Americans, for that matter—you would be condemning white nationalists, not immigrants.
President Trump, your failure to denounce white nationalism led to the deaths of our friends and neighbors, and continues to endanger us. We have watched your words and your actions over the past three months, and it has been more of the same. President Trump, we once again call upon you to commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.
The Steering Committee of Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh