Proud Daughter of Holocaust Survivor Gives Thoughts On the Synagogue Shooting

Tiphani Robinson, Writer

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It was Saturday, October 27, when I was casually riding in my uncle’s car and my nana and uncle began to rant out of pure anger. As I listened in, trying to figure out what had happened, my cousin curiously asked. My nana explained to us that 11 Jewish men and women in a synagogue had been shot and killed. I could only think of one person-Susan Tell.

Tiphani Robinson: What was your general reaction when you first heard about the shooting?

Susan Tell: Absolute shock, then anger.

TR: Why do you think that some people hold such a strong hatred towards Jewish people?

ST: Bigotry is rampant in our country. Hatred towards Jews goes back thousands of years. Today, many people stereotype us as rich, head of companies, doctors, lawyers, and bankers. Most Jews had to become business owners because they were not hired by non-Jews. Also, because of that, Jews believe in higher education in order to be able to succeed financially. We learned that we had to become self-sufficient.

TR: If he were alive, how do you think your father would react?   

ST: My dad would have been angry, but he wouldn’t have said anything publicly or reacted publicly. He survived in the concentration camps by keeping a low profile. He would have probably been fearful that history is repeating itself.

TR: How hard did this hit you on a scale of 1-10? Did it hit you harder because you personally relate?

ST: It hit me on a 10+++++. I am still having great difficulty dealing with what happened. It absolutely hit me hard because I can personally relate. I knew two of the victims murdered. One was a good friend many years ago. He also was the child of Holocaust survivors.

TR: Do you believe that the lack of diversity in a majority of schools contributes to this type of hatred?

ST: Diversity in schools has something to do with it, but I grew up in an all-white school with people who were mostly Christian. The reason for this is because Pittsburgh is a city with segregated communities. My parents taught my siblings and I that all people are equal. I visited churches with my friends, and in the 1960s went to play with a friend’s children in the Hill district. All of us are born without hatred.  Hate is learned.

TR: Do you think that schools should be required to talk more about incidents such as this? Why or why not?

ST: Absolutely!! Many educators are afraid to tackle the topics of hatred, bigotry, and stereotypes. From being in classes with me, you know that I discuss these topics head on!

TR: Do events like this ever make you fear practicing your beliefs?

ST: No! I have always worn a Star of David around my neck. I used to wear it tucked in. I now wear it “loud and proud!” I am even more determined to share my religious beliefs. I will never allow fear to stop me from practicing my religion. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were killed because of their religion. I will not let their deaths be in vain.

TR: Lastly, what is one message that you wish you can push through people’s heads?

ST: The message I want to get through people’s heads is that we are all the same. We are all human beings that share this earth. We have to stop teaching to tolerate, but rather that we all must get along with each other. We all bleed red, and unfortunately too many people are bleeding due to hatred.

    While it’s definitely a sensitive topic for her, Mrs. Tell didn’t hesitate to share her honest, unfiltered, and meaningful views. She didn’t let her emotions get in the way of anything and she still wears her religion with pride. She shows clear understanding on the basis of hate and believes in a world of acceptance and equality. She has tremendously helped me throughout my 7th and 8th grade school years and contributes to our community with her Propel Backpack Feeding Program. This is why she is one of the most admirable women that I know and is assuredly a huge role model for me. 

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