It has not been easy to find the words to write about the tragic shooting in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Since becoming president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, I’ve written to you more than a few times and not nearly as many times as I could. In response to violence, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiments, we’ve shared our pain, our anger, our fear, and our frustrations; our power and powerlessness, and our resolve to stand up, to speak out, and to support more people to act for change.
Saturday was another day of reckoning for our country. In Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, a gunman shouting anti-Semitic epithets murdered 11 Jewish people at the Tree of Life Synagogue. It was the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in U.S. history. They were killed while they worshipped, a time when they should have felt safest.
Like Jews all over America and the world, I went to my synagogue on Saturday with my family, as we do most Saturdays. We celebrated many of the same joyous milestones as those at the Tree of Life congregation – a baby naming, two bat mitzvahs and a soon-to-be marriage. There was so much love in that space and in our hearts.
Every day, in houses of worship all over the country, communities gather to pray, to grieve, to celebrate and to love. This is not the first time that people in a house of worship were murdered in an act of terror by an American white supremacist. The Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and Mother Emanuel, in Charleston, South Carolina, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the Southern U.S. experienced the terror of a person armed with a gun and hate opening fire. And just days ago, a gunman murdered two Black elders at a Louisville grocery store after being denied entry at a predominantly Black church nearby.
This vile act of hate and violence, though it targeted the Jewish community, was not only about anti-Semitism.
This was about emboldened white nationalism and those who are fighting for an America where only white, Christian, heterosexual people belong and are deserving of a place in our society. This was about the increasingly-dangerous political rhetoric that seeks to dehumanize, divide and isolate. We all have a responsibility to denounce this and stand together to defeat it.
This was also about radical solidarity. It targeted Jews advocating for the rights of refugees and immigrants, those fleeing crises for a safe haven here. This act was meant to divide and isolate us but it has only made us come together more strongly and with more resolve.
As tens of thousands mourn and organize in vigils and meetings across the country, we stand with our Jewish partners at Bend the Arc, the Anti-Defamation League, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, T’ruah, the Religious Action Center, North Carolina Jews for Justice, Detroit Jews for Justice and Jewish Community Action (Minnesota), among many others. All across the country, Jews are standing with allies from Black and brown, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, atheist and agnostic, LGBTQ and other communities. We are strengthened by their actions as together they challenge white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, transphobia and bigotry. We are hopeful as we see so many partners responding with more clarity, strength and alignment than ever before. We are inspired to deepen our practices of radical solidarity with our partners and the broader field.
Together, we are strong – and growing stronger. Together, we will prevail.
Here at NCF, we are focused on sounding the alarm with our partners to the threat white nationalism poses to our democracy, how the misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia emerging from our nation’s leadership writes the script for extremist violence, and supporting movements and coalitions aimed at overturning white supremacy and institutionalized racism.
NCF will continue to deepen our commitment in these areas of work in the coming months. Beyond our grantmaking, we’ll continue to use all of our resources – our voice, investments, and people – to demand accountability and action from our political and corporate leaders and to build cross-sector alliances to push back against hate. We are funding research, convenings and trainings across diverse communities, building bridges among leaders and activists across social movements, and supporting multiracial, multi-faith change-makers to articulate and advocate for an alternative vision based on justice and revolutionary love. We invite our colleagues in philanthropy to join us in countering white nationalism and to stand together to face this threat together.
In the days ahead, NCF will do all we can to shine a spotlight on the hate and division being stoked by the current administration and others for political gain. Speaking out against hate and responding with love is at the core of who we are.
President & CEO
Nathan Cummings Foundation