Open Letter Regarding Tree of Life Synagogue Tragedy

Dear MSU Community,

Our hearts go out to the victims of today’s horrific attack at the Tree of Life synagogue outside of Pittsburgh, and their families, fellow congregants, friends, and the entire community. We live in dangerous times. Individuals radicalized by the rhetoric of hate groups on social media are emboldened to act on their prejudice, in part through the inflammatory comments made by mainstream politicians.  Antisemitic rhetoric is gaining greater legitimacy. It is therefore even more incumbent upon all of us to take care of one another, watch out for one another, treat one another with respect, empathy and kindness, while standing firm against hatred and prejudice of all kinds. This is likely to be one of the worst antisemitic attacks in U.S. history.  

Early indications are that the perpetrator’s violence was triggered by long-standing antisemitism, combined with anger about the work of Jewish groups to show compassion and support for refugee communities – demonstrating the way in which prejudice and hatred for one group should not be separated from prejudice and hatred for other marginalized groups, and that people of good will must stand up not only for the rights, dignity, and safety of their own communities, but for the rights, dignity, and safety of others. The Anti-Defamation League reports that there was an almost 60% increase in antisemitic incidents in the United States in 2017 from the previous year (almost 2,000), which is the highest number of incidents since the ADL started reporting incidents in the 1970s. These include antisemitic incidents in schools and college campuses that nearly doubled in number for the second year in a row, in addition to bomb threats, vandalism, and white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

We in the Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel will continue our work to educate ourselves and others about the history and ongoing presence of antisemitism and prejudice more broadly, and work to combat prejudice locally, nationally, and internationally.

In the wake of the terrible tragedy that unfolded on Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue outside of Pittsburgh, the College of Arts & Letters stands in solidarity with the victims, their families, and the entire Jewish community in Pittsburgh and around the world. 

There is a candlelight vigil in honor of those who have passed away at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. It will take place Monday, October 29, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at MSU Hillel, 360 Charles St., East Lansing, MI 48823.


Yael Aronoff
The  Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel
Michigan State University

Additionally, on Monday, November 5th at 5pm the Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel is also sponsoring a forum/teach-in on antisemitism in the wake of this mass shooting at Club Sparta in Case (third floor), James Madison College.

All students, faculty, and community members are invited to attend. The discussion will be facilitated by Institute faculty including Yael Aronoff, Director of the Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel, Kirsten Fermaglich, Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies, Amy Simon, Farber Family Chair in Holocaust Studies and European Jewish History, and Margot Valles, in English and Religious Studies, who grew up a block from the synagogue.