People hold candles as they gather for a vigil in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

People hold candles as they gather for a vigil in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Opinion: They were us

In the recent commemoration for the Princess Sophia sinking of 100 years ago, in describing the Sophia’s passengers the speaker repeatedly used the phrase, “They were us.” Their lives were our lives, those men and women and children, passengers and crew. They were southbound from Skagway and the Yukon during stormy October weather, just as those at the graveside service this past week stood in stormy October weather. They were us, those more than 350 people who died a terrible death on that ship with the tragic fate.

These words haunt me today as I contemplate the killings of Jews in their synagogue in Pittsburgh, killed by a hate-filled anti-Semitic American. They were us, they were worshipping in fellowship on their Sabbath with their congregation, in the safety of their synagogue. As I write this, I don’t even know the usual details that follow with stunning regularity these horrific killings: How many women, men, children. Four police officers were wounded. I’ll learn more painful details later, but what really matters right now is that they were us, their families are our families, their grief is our grief, their humanity is our humanity.

After the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, protesting a white supremacist rally, my husband and I, alarmed by the rising anti-Semitism and white nationalism in our country, reached out to our local synagogue and attended a service in solidarity with our Jewish friends and neighbors. We reached out to say that we stand with them, we are them. We reached out to stand with them.

My husband, with an openness that I am constantly humbled by, was so struck by one prayer during the service that he kept reaching out to Sukkhat Shalom, our Jewish community here in Juneau. He has been so moved by this beautiful and ancient tradition that he will soon be converting to Judaism. He will literally be “one of them.” I am not converting but I will remain right there with him, with them, with us.

This week with its mailed pipe bombs was terrifying already, and now we have beautiful, innocent people killed while worshipping in a synagogue. Both of these are hate crimes. This must stop. We must not allow ourselves to be numbed by this. We must not continue to make excuses and we must not tolerate hate and excuses. And we must hold those accountable who continue to tolerate this. And we must vote our conscience, vote with love and determination, vote with and for humanity.

• Michelle Bonnet Hale was recently elected to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly.

More in Opinion

Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

Mist from Nugget Falls has a prism-like effect in September 2020. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Multiple vehicles line up at the entrance of Waste Management’s Capitol Disposal Landfill in Lemon Creek Monday morning. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
The absence of economic incentives to reduce waste

This week, Waste Management, the Texas based company that owns and operates… Continue reading

Over 200 people attended LunaFest (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: JPCC owes a huge debt of gratitude to two LunaFest guest speakers

LunaFest 2023 was JPCC’s most successful fundraising event ever.

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Education funding is complicated and political

At a recent Alaska State Senate Education Committee hearing at the Capitol,… Continue reading

At Wednesday evening’s special Assembly meeting, the Assembly appropriated nearly $4 million toward funding a 5.5% wage increase for all CBJ employees along with a 5% increase to the employer health contribution. According to City Manager Rorie Watt, it doesn't necessarily fix a nearly two decade-long issue of employee retention concerns for the city. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: Assessment needs additional oversight

A win in dealing with City and Borough of Juneau is when… Continue reading

This photo shows the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Deja vu for the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area

Three new alternatives don’t go far enough.

In this Nov. 29, 2018 photo, clouds swirl over Douglas Island. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The Roadless Rule is a misnomer for what’s really happening in the Tongass

The Roadless Rule, as currently comprised with an exception provision, works.

Faith Myers stands at the doors of API. (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: Psychiatric patient care report could be catalyst for improvements

Will good suggestions get lost in state bureaucracy?

Most Read