Three years ago, on a peaceful Shabbat morning, a lone gunman stormed into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood and stole the lives of 11 souls in prayer. Eleven others managed to escape — some with serious physical injuries, others with indelible scars of grief.
The attack was the deadliest act of antisemitism in our nation’s history. It was an assault on members of the Tree of Life, New Light, and Dor Hadash congregations, the American Jewish community, and our country. And it was a reminder that hate never goes away, it only hides; and if we give hate oxygen, it can consume.
But the days, weeks, and months that followed also revealed the unyielding character of a community: The first responders who rushed into harm’s way. The teenagers who organized a Havdalah vigil for a neighborhood in need. The art teacher who painted hearts and Stars of David in the windows of a local coffee shop. The designer who formed an iconic image that defined a city and inspired a nation with three simple words: stronger than hate.
That day and those that followed remind all of us to embrace the better angels of our nature – and to turn pain into purpose. We must always stand up and speak out against antisemitism with clarity and conviction, and rally against the forces of hate in all its forms, because silence is complicity. We must recognize in others our shared humanity and strive to summon unexpected faith in unanticipated moments — in the hope that we might heal and rebuild.
That continues to be the work of my Administration — laying out our country’s first-ever comprehensive strategy to address domestic terrorism, signing legislation aimed at strengthening our efforts to counter unlawful acts of hate, taking executive actions to protect houses of worship, and pressing forward with executive and legislative action to reduce all forms of gun violence.
This Shabbat, in synagogues around the country, worshipers will sing the timeless words from the Book of Proverbs: Eitz Chayim Hee La’machazikim Bah. “It is a tree of life for those who hold fast to it.” As we mark three years since this heinous attack, we resolve to remember the lives lost and commit to protecting a future worthy of their memories. May the survivors and the families of the victims hold fast to the teachings of their faith and find comfort in the embrace of their community and their country.