An Enduring and Deadly Hate

Member Group : Reflections

PITTSBURGH. In the fall of 1743, some 275 years before the anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 in which eleven people were murdered at Saturday morning religious services, a frail and impoverished fourteen-year-old boy, a promising young Talmudic scholar, arrived at the city wall of Berlin, the capital of Prussia, a prominent state in the German Empire, after walking alone for a hundred miles over six days from his hometown of Dassau, a small satchel holding his only possessions.

The young boy, decades later renowned throughout Europe as the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, a man of letters and a literary critic, the “German Socrates,” dutifully waited for permission to enter Berlin at the Rosenthaler Tor, “the only gate in the city wall through which Jews (and cattle) were allowed to pass,” writes Amos Elon in his far-reaching 2002 book, The Pity of It All: The Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933.

The gate let the cattle in to be slaughtered; the wall kept the ostracized, reviled and mistrusted Jews corralled to be degraded, exploited and eventually marked for extinction.

The Rosenthaler gatekeeper’s task, say historical records, was to “stop and register all incoming Jews and keep an eye on them during their stay.”

The gatekeeper’s “surviving log for 1743, the year Mendelssohn trudged through the Rosenthal Gate,”  reports Elon, “includes this notation: ‘Today there passed six oxen, seven swine, and a Jew.’ “

The lone suspect in the mass shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, evidently feeling fearful and enraged about immigration into the U.S. and especially about the caravan from Central America heading for the U.S. southern border, and incensed as well about Jewish support for refugees, referring specifically in his social media anti-Semitic posts to “HIAS,” the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the world’s oldest refugee resettlement agency, founded in 1881.

A blame-the-Jews tweet on October 17, 2018 about the caravan posted by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., shows a video of a man handing out slips of currency-sized paper to women and children. Rep. Gaetz characterized the video as “Footage in Honduras giving cash to women and children to join the caravan and storm the U.S. border. Soros?,” a reference to George Soros, Jewish Hungarian-American billionaire investor and philanthropist whom President Trump blamed for funding the protests against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump retweeted the posting by Rep. Gaetz and added to the targeting of Soros by tweeting a Soros-connected portrayal of anti-Kavanaugh protestors: “The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it. Look at all the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others.”

Two hours before the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue, an account under the name of Robert Bowers on Gab, a social media website known mainly for its 800,000 far right user base disproportionately consisting of  anti-Semites, the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and radicalized white supremacists, painted Jews as complicit in instigating and supporting the Central American caravan’s supposedly plotted assault on the United States and trumpeted a posting that sounded like a direct call to battle, a green light for murder: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t stand by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

And in Bowers went, from one Pittsburgh address to another, mirroring the attack message posted on his account, armed with a Colt AR-15 assault rifle and three Glock .357 handguns, all four of which were fired, said police, killing eleven and wounding six.

Was Bowers hearing voices? Absolutely, some straight from the top.


Ralph R. Reiland is Associate Professor of Economics Emeritus at Robert Morris University, a columnist and a Pittsburgh restaurateur. His email: [email protected].

Ralph R. Reiland
Phone: 412-779-7583; 412-884-4541
Email: [email protected]