Shooting-Synagogue

Law enforcement officers secure the scene where multiple people were shot, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

As in the case of a South Carolina church in 2015, murderous shooting rampages in a place of worship, this time in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, continue to have the capacity to shock.

The 11 dead in the Tree of Life congregation in the Pennsylvania city, like those in Charleston before, were victims of a shooter known to have extremist views that he expressed online.

The deaths of children in schools are also shocking events, given that our society, like all civilized nations, treasures its young and seeks to protect them. But that a church or a synagogue is the target is particularly disturbing.

The newest incident ought to reinforce our nation’s rejection of the anti-Semitic ravings of some internet denizens, one of them the accused Pittsburgh shooter, who survived a shootout with police. Federal prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty in this case.

At trial, we are likely to hear more of the repulsive hostility to Jews that should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

President Donald Trump spoke for America when he strongly condemned the Pittsburgh attack as an act of anti-Semitism. He has denounced political violence and called for unity, after prominent Democrats including former President Barack Obama were targets of improvised bombs sent through the mail.

Nevertheless, there is hardly a pause in the president’s campaign rallies a week before important midterm elections. Inevitably, it seems, the president’s populist rhetoric continues to heat the political pot at a time when the news is so distressing.

Politics should not always be about inflaming passions, but instead calming them and directing them to constructive ends.

Perhaps the Tree of Life attack underlines the dangers of extremism in American life in many ways, but the specific prejudice against Jews has a long pedigree in this country as well as overseas.

We are certainly as familiar with that as anyone, given the prominence of Louisiana native David Duke in the shadowy world of anti-Semitic politics here and abroad. As voters here decisively rejected the former Klansman's gubernatorial campaign in 1991, so we reject anyone's continued involvement with sectarian or racial hatred.

The Pittsburgh shooting came as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was visiting Israel. He and his wife prayed at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Yad Vashem, for the victims in Pennsylvania.

“This sort of hate and divisiveness has no place in our society,” the governor said in a statement. Unhappily, when it comes to the enduring appeal of anti-Semitism to extreme elements, it still has a foothold in America, and vigilance against it is still required.

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