Letter to the Editor

The Editorial Board

In Judaism, a brit milah, or bris, is a sacred ceremony meant to signify a newborn male’s entrance into the world and the Jewish faith. As introduced in Genesis and Leviticus in the Torah (or the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament), the act of circumcision is often conducted on the eighth day of the child’s life. It is meant to be a symbol of consecration, of cleanliness and it is taken particularly seriously in conservative and orthodox Jewish communities. Why did I write a letter to the school newspaper explaining what a bris is? Because a bris is what was happening at the the Tree Of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday when Robert Bowers walked in with an assault rifle and started killing people.

Among the 11 killed was Rose Mallinger, a 97-year old woman who is said to have been a Holocaust survivor. Much will surely be made of this, and we are gradually learning more about the other victims, the youngest of whom was 54. But as I reflect and pray and meditate about this mass shooting, I keep thinking about the fact that it was a bris, that there was a newborn infant there, and that he could have easily been a victim too.

We are in a time and place where mass shootings are so common that we all have devised go-to questions for when the story breaks. My questions include: “Was the shooter a male?” “What is the color of his skin?” “What kind of gun did he use?” “Does he have a history of domestic violence and hate speech?” “Did they take him alive?” “How many children were killed?” And I don’t know about you, but when I heard this weekend that there were actually no children among Robert Bowers’ victims, I was pleasantly surprised. “Oh thank goodness,” I thought. “How lucky we all are that, for the first time since I can remember, no children died in an American mass shooting.”

We are in a time and place where gun violence, terrorism, racism and hate speech are pervading our everyday lives. And in less than one year, we have seen two mass shootings, in two houses of worship, of two different faiths, in two different parts of the country. The last one (in case, like me, you keep forgetting which was the last one), was at Sutherland Springs church in Texas.This is our time and place. This is the time and place we must navigate and react to. This is the time and place in which we are taxed with raising the next generation. This is the time and place that that boy was born into.

It is easy to make jokes about circumcision, about how an infant boy has no say in the matter, but I have no patience for jokes; I am not in a joking mood today. I am much more concerned that an infant boy had no say in the fact that someone committed a hate crime at his bris. Young child, whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope you and your parents are safe. I hope you live a long life and grow up remembering the people who were murdered around you. And I hope your generation can do something to stop the commonality of this kind of horror. Yes, young child, welcome to the world. Welcome to your culture and your faith as a Jew. Welcome to your family. Welcome to your country.