Walter, our knowledgeable and passionate guide in Vienna, tells us that where we see a synagogue, we will also see a gray police box. It is a security measure necessitated by anti-semitism past and present. Throughout the day, Walter points out to us the locations of previous synagogues, destroyed by Pogrom Night, November 9-10, 1938, when the local populace burned synagogues. I think to June 2009, when a white supremacist fatally shot Stephen Johns as he worked his security shift at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I couldn’t help but to research, so I learned that in November 2020, there had been a mass shooting that began near Vienna’s main synagogue. While the subsequent investigation revealed that the Jewish population had not been the perpetrator’s target, Jewish institutions remained closed in the following days out of an abundance of caution. I think, of course, of the October 27 shooting at the Tree of LIfe synagogue in Pittsburgh, where a gunman murdered 11 people as they worshiped.
There is more to Judaism than anti-semitism and the Shoah; even so, I cannot forget that the hate transcends time and place and that as a teacher, the remedy is education and wisdom.