The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Is The Documentary Kanye West Must See
As Kanye West has shown over the past two weeks, anti-Semitism is alive and well in contemporary America, where Jews make up just 3% of the population yet are victims of more than 50% of all hate crimes based on religion. None of these were more deadly than the Oct. 27, 2018, shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life — or Congregation L’Simcha Synagogue — that claimed the lives of 11 innocent worshipers and killed more. injured six others, and A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting revisit this massacre with intense pain and compassion. Although he is less concerned with the causes than the effects of this attack, his anguish is overwhelming and it serves as a familiar warning to Jews – and all other ethnic and religious minorities – of the growing threats posed by terrorists. nationals.
Directed by Trish Adelesic, A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting (October 26 on HBO) is an examination of an open wound, as well as a portrait of a community both broken and strengthened by tragedy. It focuses on the testimonies of those who walked out of Tree of Life that fateful Saturday morning, when Shabbat services were fatally interrupted by rapid fire from the semi-automatic assault rifle of 46-year-old Robert Bowers. . a man who had come to the synagogue to kill due to his apparent fury over his association with HIAS, a Jewish organization dedicated to helping refugees. Avoiding dramatic recreations, Adlesic lets his speakers describe their unique (if intertwined) experiences during the siege, their memories – hiding in closets, fleeing through exit doors and clinging to life as their friends and their loved ones perished alongside them – proving to be as alive as they are heartbreaking.
For Audrey Glickman, survival was about fleeing to a room in the back of the building where she and Joe Charny were trying to pass themselves off as clothing donation bags. Andrea Wedner was not so lucky, suffering gunshot wounds in a back seat in the synagogue with her 97-year-old mother Rose Mallinger, who succumbed to her injuries. Hearing the first shots, medic Dan Leger and Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz automatically ran into the chaos in an effort to help those in need – a decision that cost the latter his life and left him severely injured. the first. Leger was fortunately rescued by paramedics, although Joyce Fienberg or David and Cecil Rosenthal were not so lucky, whose relatives heard something was wrong at Tree of Life and knew, instinctively, that their worst fears had come true. .
To be Jewish in America in 2022 is to understand that there is a perpetual target behind your back, and A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting therefore feels – even to some of its subjects – like the story of a fatality. Awful grief is the order of the day, and yet there is nonetheless resilience in the way interviewees refuse to simply succumb to the desolation, telling their stories with sober and clairvoyant lucidity, while expressing their feelings. over whether Bowers — who will face prosecution in 2023 — should face the death penalty or life in prison. Bowers’ name is only spoken twice and his face is seen once, as Adlesic refuses to expend any energy on the man himself for fear it will enhance his notorious reputation. It is censorship by omission, and moreover, a tactic that testifies to the fact that it is less important than the dastardly movement that enabled and emboldened it.
Although Secure Community Network National Security Advisor Brad Orsini does not literally say the source of Bowers’ fanaticism, A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting draws sharp and conclusive lines between Bowers and local white nationalists who are embraced and encouraged by former President Donald Trump, whose visit to the Tree of Life memorial is drawing outraged protests. Director Adlesic brings together a montage of TV clips, news reports and online messages about past and present anti-Semitic ugliness, ranging from the 1939 US Nazi Party rally at Madison Square Garden to a YouTube video of the January 6 uprising featuring featuring a woman singing repugnant alternative lyrics to U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. When it comes to despising – and blaming Jews for the ills of the world, what’s old is always new.
That, in the aftermath of this murder, the Jews of Pittsburgh felt compelled to take active shooter training courses is a poignant reminder – like all similar atrocities, which occur almost daily – that when it comes to guns, America is fundamentally broken. Further proof of this reality comes from a 62-year-old Pittsburgh resident who set up a gun store in an abandoned synagogue just an hour from Tree of Life, and who proposes that the solution to this national problem is to arm everyone. In his comments, as well as a discussion of the bonds that formed between the survivors of Tree of Life and those of Parkland and Charleston, A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting becomes a snapshot of a society hopelessly distorted by hateful, unnecessary and preventable violence.
“That, in the aftermath of this murder, the Jews of Pittsburgh felt compelled to take active shooter training courses is a poignant reminder – like all similar atrocities, which occur almost daily – that when it comes to guns, America is fundamentally broken.”
In a late passage, composer and jazz trumpeter Hannibal Lokumbe recalls the excitement he felt when Audrey agreed to play the shofar (a traditional Jewish musical horn) on his composition “Healing Tones,” and A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting locates other encouraging moments of people using this calamity to come together and strengthen community bonds. Yet any sense of hope is overwhelmed by the overwhelming despair at the lives lost in this onslaught and the scars left on those who made it out alive. To see Audrey and Joe being surprised by rumbling motorbikes (“It’s scary”) is to understand, through a daily urban incident, the profound impact of such a crime, the legacy of which lives on long after. the departure of the media cameras and the disappearance of the protests. in memory.
In this regard, A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting is a vital act of commemoration of men and women who were killed simply because of who they were – and, also, the pervasiveness and ramifications of a centuries-old intolerance which, as Kanye West recently illustrated , refuses to die.