Updated: Jul 2, 2019
By Barbara Sloan
Have you read the “manifesto” of the Poway, CA, synagogue shooter?
Today in an adult synagogue class, we did. It is full of hate and strong language, but it is also well-written, the work of an intelligent, organized, though horrible man (whose name is not mentioned here so as not to give him personal recognition).
He lays out all the reasons he hates Jews, most of them familiar old tropes, right down to blood libel and Christ-killing. According to him, Jews run the world and are trying to annihilate the “European race,” of which he is a proud member.
The numbers make no sense, of course. There are half a billion Europeans today. Of that number, only one million are Jewish. There are over 327,200,000 Americans, of whom only about 1.4% are Jewish. That’s about 4.5 million.
That 5.5 million Jews, most of whom consider themselves to be of white, European heritage, could or would eliminate almost one billion whites of European descent is ridiculous.
The shooter went on to say that he is not mentally ill and was not raised by his family to hate. This may be debatable. Some people in our class thought he must be mentally ill. But as the shooter points out, simply labeling him mentally ill lets him off the hook, and he doesn’t want that. (Neither do I.)
Instead, he said his purpose, as is so often the case, was to inspire others to shoot more Jews, just as he was inspired by the shooter in Pittsburgh. He claimed he was willing to die or serve a life sentence in order to inspire others to kill.
Is this mental illness or just plain evil? How did the shooter come to this level of hatred in only 19 years of life?
I’m not sure it really matters. His desire to kill is more important. His desire to start a “race” war is more important.
As a mental health professional, I am not sure he can be diagnosed as mentally ill, but I don’t have enough information about him to be certain. I don’t know enough of his personal history to know why or how he came to feel such hatred. As a Jew, I think his ideas and his behavior are repugnant beyond words.
I am sure, though, that the life of the woman he killed, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, is more important than the shooter’s motives and beliefs. So are the lives of all who come together to worship in peace.
As we say, may Ms. Gilbert-Kaye’s memory always be for a blessing. May the name of the killer be erased from history, along with all those who have killed due to hatred.
Barbara Sloan is a retired mental health and addictions counselor, the developer and manager of several dual-diagnosis treatment programs and a freelance writer.