A makeshift memorial stands outside the Tree of Life synagogue in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the in Pittsburgh. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP icture the scene: Michael Peinovich, an American neo-Nazi, stands beneath the Lincoln Memorial in Washington during summer 2017 warning of a “white genocide”. “Who controls the media?” he bellows, call-and-response. “Who controls Hollywood? Who controls Wall Street?” The Jews, the Jews, the Jews. Beside him stands a man with a placard reading: “Jews for Trump”. P
Next up is white nationalist Richard Spencer: “Remember everyone, see you in Charlottesville.” A month later, many of the same people marched by torchlight, chanting “Jews will not replace us”. After the violence that ensued, the president whose name was on that placard in Washington infamously blamed “both sides”.
Just 15 months later, a sympathiser with this invigorated Neo-nazi movement murdered 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. President Trump duly arrived to denounce antisemitism, but faced down 13,000 local demonstrators to do so. Those demonstrating were outraged at Trump’s visit, charging that his rhetoric had helped foment violence. One sign read “Words matter”.
Not within living memory has America been so divided but neither has its Jewish community. As an op-ed in America’s oldest Jewish magazine, the Forward – which celebrated its 120th anniversary last year – said in the aftermath of Pittsburgh and the midterm elections: “the American Jewish community is asking itself for the first time in half a century: What does it mean to be a Jew in America?”
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