Pittsburgh, PA – Members of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood said they have recently been on the receiving end of harassment and antisemitic verbal assaults.
B’nai Emunah Chabad of Greenfield sits along Murray Avenue just a few feet away from two high-traffic bus stops. It’s in that area Rabbi Elchonon Friedman said members of his congregation have reported they’ve been cursed at and accosted.
Since the beginning of 2023, Rabbi Friedman and Yitzchak Goldwasser, the director of Chabad outreach, said they’ve been made aware of three separate incidents. The most recent reportedly happened last weekend.
“There’s a lot of minorities here in the area and they’re being targeted,” Goldwasser said.
They said one man claimed that while he was walking with his 18-month-old daughter, he heard someone yell, “here comes another one,” then proceeded to ask him if they were “fake Jews.” He said even as he walked away, the group of juveniles continued to yell and swear at them.
“After Tree of Life, we take these things much more seriously,” Rabbi Friedman said. “People should recognize that in the world we live in, these types of statements have much more meaning because of what could happen.”
In 2021, western Pennsylvania experienced the highest number of antisemitic incidents recorded in the state since tracking began in 1979, according to data from the Anti-Defamation League.
Sara Scheinbach, ADL senior associate regional director, said reporting these incidents should be a priority as should intervening if you witness a hateful encounter.
“While antisemitic words may not necessarily be criminal in nature, they cause real trauma for the victims who hear these words and it’s important that we shine a light on what’s happening out there,” Scheinbach said.
The congregation continues to prioritize the safety of the community by bringing in security and putting up cameras in and around the synagogue.
“It cannot become accepted that anyone can just do whatever they want,” Goldwasser said. “There has to be accountability.”
Goldwasser added he and other members of the Jewish community would like to see more support from the city as well as a stronger reaction and response from law enforcement in the event of an antisemitic incident, physical or not.
He said people know that getting physical will likely garner a response from police but that a verbal attack is a “gray” area that needs attention.
“I think we need to focus and crack down on that,” Goldwasser said. “If it’s said to hurt someone, the police will take it serious. They’ll find you and whatever it is, there will be a follow-up.”
Both men said two of the three incidents they’re aware of have been reported to police.
KDKA reached out to Pittsburgh Public Safety about those incidents. So far, they have not responded to our inquiry.