Murderer’s Misplaced Rage Answered Compassion with Carnage |

Murderer’s Misplaced Rage Answered Compassion with Carnage

Geraldo Rivera. | Photo by Richard Drew, via Associated Press

BY GERALDO RIVERA | Driving on Route 80 from New York through the lovely Poconos on my way home to Cleveland, I heard on the radio about the outrage regarding the Tree of Life Synagogue. Like hurricanes and all such unfolding disasters, mass murders take a while until the full extent of the trauma is realized. The final body count is always worse than initially reported. In this case, it was profoundly worse from what I was hearing on the radio. From several dead, it soon became clear that what happened in the charming Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh was the worst massacre ever of Jews in America.

Eleven were killed; elderly worshippers ranging in age from 54 to 97, gathered for Saturday Shabbat services. Six more were wounded, including four heroic Pittsburgh cops who confronted the mass murderer as he attempted to flee the scene of his carnage. Their speedy response probably saved lives.

The alleged shooter was another of those aggrieved losers, like the schmuck who last week sent the poorly constructed mail bombs to Democratic leadership and CNN. As you know by now from news accounts, this alleged synagogue murderer is Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old anti-Semite who armed himself with an AR-15 and several powerful Glock handguns before beginning his slaughter of defenseless old-timers praying in the temple that has served Jews in this community for a hundred years. His motive, at least as gleaned from his perverse social media posts, was his rage at efforts of Jewish humanitarian groups, principally HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to assist refugees, like the caravan currently making its way north from Central America through Mexico. Somehow Bowers twisted the ancient compassion of Jews and the current plight of Latino refugees into a mortal threat to the white race.

Whatever his motivation or sick excuse, Bowers’ crimes were a grim reminder that however comfortable Jewish life is in America, our New World Colossus, there have always been intolerant haters. Spawned by jealousy, envy, and race hatred, these neo-Nazis are a sub-culture that has existed for centuries, lurking just below the surface, and waiting for an excuse to savage Jewish businesses, houses of worship and individuals because they represent some obscure threat. These days, anti-Semitism is out of fashion — but as this slaughter of innocents reminds us, some things never really change they just go underground.

Until the terrible news broke of the synagogue massacre, the weekend had a pleasant buzz. Despite awful weather that had caused me to take this rare road trip, rather than my usual commuter plane, I was motoring along while enjoying the fall colors across the Allegheny Mountains, looking for charming places to gas up and grab a bite.

On Friday, I had spent the evening with some old friends from the Guild for Exceptional Children, a Brooklyn-based community services charity founded, like Life’s WORC, by parents of developmentally disabled youngsters formerly warehoused in now-defunct institutions like Willowbrook. We remembered the grim old days, and celebrated all that has changed for the better in the field, despite the many challenges that remain.

I wish the weekend had ended with that positive affirmation that care, compassion and good deeds define us. Sadly, harsh reality sometimes intrudes, as it did when gunshots pierced the peaceful Shabbat in the old Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh.