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Taking Action After Pittsburgh to Save Lives

In the aftermath of the tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue, I’ve read many articles that offer ideas to help our communities cope with the tragedy in Pittsburgh.  Some ideas are spiritual, some offer actions. At the same time, I’ve heard personally from a number of congregations that have told me that their members are worried about attending shul or public events.

We must not let the actions of those who hate us and would seek to destroy us cause us to abandon who we are, nor our desire to join our fellow Jews to meet, and celebrate life’s events and holidays.  At the same time, many want to find something that they can do to help make a real difference in their congregations and in our community that can help improve our safety.

temple

Why This Matters

In any violent attack, whether it be with firearms, knives, or explosives, the arrival of the medical response may be delayed.  During the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue, almost 40 minutes went by beforethe first casualties were evacuated by tactical medical teams.  That delay can be a lifetime for someone seriously injured and bleeding, anddeath can occur in less than 5 minutes. In the world of tactical medicine, we often use the term “preventable casualties” in reference to people who succumb to injuries that could have been survivable if medical care had been provided faster.  Until the arrival of those first heroic tactical medics in Pittsburgh, the members of the congregation were put in the position to be the immediate responders.

Taking Action

There is something that everyone can be a part of that can and will save lives.  There is something we can do to create “immediate responders” in our own synagogues and communities.  Regular people who have the tools and training to save the life of someone who is suffering from severe bleeding.  This can be from something as serious as (G-d forbid) a terrorist attack, or something as routine as kitchen mishaps, car accidents, and why not…even shark attacks.

Bleeding Control Kits

We want to put public access bleeding control kits into our synagogues and community centers.  These kits contain items that can be used to control severe bleeding, such as tourniquets and pressure bandages.  Think of these kits just like public access Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs), but for bleeding instead of heart problems.  Just like AEDs, they enable bystanders to intervene and save lives during the time it takes for EMS to arrive. Just as with an AED and CPR, bystander intervention with severe bleeding can literally mean the difference between life and death.

 

bleed control

Training

Having these kits is not enough.  We need to get people trained, and the more the better.  The Stop the Bleed program is a nationwide initiative that raises awareness of severe bleeding injuries and encourages people to take action to protect themselves and their communities.

Like CPR training, Stop the Bleed training only requires a few hours of time to teach the skills needed to save a life.  Imagine the feeling of being able to use these skills to save someone at a car crash, at work, or at your synagogue!

What You Can Do

We’re trying to get these kits into DC-area synagogues, and to provide training to staff and members of the congregations.

First, you can become an advocate.  Talk to your synagogue and get them on board.  That’s easy…but hopefully you want to do more.  We’ve had interest from several synagogues, but we’ll help anyone we can.

Most importantly, please contribute towards this project.  Jackie Feldman has created a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help make this happen.  These funds will support the purchase of kits and provision of training (I’ve already lined up several tactical medical colleagues willing to donate time) for synagogues that are interested.

If you want to do even more…participate!  If your synagogue is on board, get trained. If they’re not, go to one that is.  Maybe you’ll even decide to get your own kit to keep with you in the car just in case you come upon some kind of accident where you can now help.

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About the Authors:

steveSteve Birnbaum is an independent consultant and expert on disaster and emergency response technology and innovation, with experiences responding to domestic and international disasters. He is a volunteer firefighter/EMT and USAR tech in Montgomery County, MD, and is trained as a tactical medic. Birnbaum serves on the various DHS and Department of State advisory bodies related to public safety and disaster response. He is a former wilderness SAR tech in Israel, and previously served in the Climbing, Rappelling, and Rescuing Section of the IDF Counter-Terror School.

 

 

Jackie FeldmanJacqueline Feldman is the founder of Sephardic Jews in DC, a group that hosts events for young professionals in DC in celebration of Sephardic culture, food, and religious traditions. She is the author of the food blog, Healthy Sephardic Cooking that features a healthier spin on many traditional Jewish and Sephardic recipes and teaches classes on Sephardic cuisine and cooking in DC. When she’s not busy cooking or hosting, she enjoys painting, yoga, watching Seinfeld, and anything to do with International Affairs.

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Defining Anti-Semitism

The first step of addressing any challenge is defining it.  But anti-Semitism is more than a challenge. It’s a direct threat rather than an abstract one – as our people were sadly reminded last week.

The Threat of Anti-Semitism is Not New

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), in downtown DC, calls it “the longest hatred.”  The museum continues by defining it as a “prejudice against or hatred of Jews” and that the plague of anti-Semitism has sickened “the world for more than 2,000 years.”

The USHMM definition is fairly aligned to the Webster’s Dictionary definition of anti-Semitism:  hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.

The threat of anti-Semitism isn’t a Jewish problem.  It’s a human problem. Hate is hate. When one people are marginalized or threatened, all people are marginalized and threatened.  This isn’t quite intersectionality – it’s logic.

As the prominent Lutheran German Pastor Martin Niemöller said, as a vocal critic to Adolf Hitler and Nazism, in his post-World War II remarks:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Niemöller was not a perfect person.  No man (or woman or non-binary individual) is perfect.  Niemöller was critical of his own culpability as a Christian for his earlier support for Hitler, but his example as a leader is an important one for today’s day and age.  Let us not forget that if we don’t learn from the past, we are bound to repeat it.

Lessons from the Tree of Life Synagogue

We have a lot to learn from the tragedy that sunk all of our hearts on Saturday, October 27 in the steel city.  The lessons must be for all people – not just the Jewish people.  To me, the most important lesson that we must take as Americans and as Jewish-Americans is to equally agree on a definition of anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism is a “prejudice against or hatred of Jews” and it is “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.”  But it is also more than that…

I personally accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition”.  As an American, the United States is a party to this non-legally binding working definition and as an American, I accept my country’s definition of anti-Semitism as,

“A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

IHRA and the U.S. describe a number of manifestations of anti-Semitism online, which may include but is not limited to “targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’ It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.”

The residents of Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life Synagogue may have never thought that such an evil could ever befall them.  They are not to blame for anything that they did or did not do for the evil of the shooter – whose name is not worth repeating. The residents of the DMV should also never think that such evil will not befall our torn community.  

Anti-Semitism Persists 

In the few days alone since the tragedy of Pittsburgh, two incidents of anti-Semitism in our community bring pain to my heart.

On Monday, October 29 – just two days after the shooting – a DC public high school found a swastika sticker affixed to a bathroom wall.  This same school found swastika graffiti on a bathroom wall just one year ago.  As noted, if we do not learn from history, we’re bound to repeat it. Unfortunately, these acts at the DC school are not alone.  Although the most recent swastika was found two days after the Pittsburgh attack, another swastika was found drawn on a classroom desk at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, MD just two days prior to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.  An analysis from The Washington Post found three dozen bias incidents in Montgomery County schools alone in the 2016-2017 school year.

Despite it All, We Pursue Peace 

As Jews, I suspect those reading this article and those who attend GatherDC programming believe – like me – in the Jewish ideal of tikkun olam.   These acts of hatred are new cracks in the fractured and broken world in which we live. As Jews, we spend every day looking to repair the world.  I for one will do what I can to double down in my efforts to give my time, my creativity, and my tzedakah to do my small part to repair the world.  I hope you will join me. You can say thank you to a stranger, hold the elevator or front door open for a neighbor, smile at someone that looks different than you, or donate to a charity that is meaningful to you.

Showing up for Shabbat 

I spent my Shabbat before the shooting with friends and family at Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239 community shabbat with Rabbi Miller.  I spent my Shabbat after the shooting with friends and family at Sixth & I’s Solidarity Shabbat with Rabbis Shira and Jesse.

I decided to #ShowUpForShabbat. I am committing myself to peace, justice, love, and a desire to pray for those who currently have darkness in their hearts towards Jews – or any other people – to question their own hate and replace it with understanding and light.  The Jewish people make up only 2% of the American population and approximately 0.2% of global citizenry. But, I do hope that we can be – in these dark days – a light unto the nations to guide all people to a better understanding of who we are as a people and what we are as a religion. Let us all take our first step into that light by agreeing to the same definition of anti-Semitism, so we as a generation can eliminate it so our children do not need to experience the pain that we all feel this week.

 

 

About the Author: Jason Langsner is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Jason has been an active lay leader of the Washington Jewish community since moving to the city in 2004, and volunteers for several Jewish organizations including B’nai Brith International. He is a small business owner and formerly served as the head of digital strategy for the oldest Jewish human rights and humanitarian organization in the world. When not blogging, he can often be found walking around his Eastern Market neighborhood, or riding around DC area bike trails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.