The massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh hits home for me, as a Jew and as an immigration lawyer. The murderer shouted anti-Semitic slurs as he gunned down innocent parishioners. His on-line rants point to his motivation: Hatred of HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish resettlement agency) and "invaders," i.e., refugees seeking protection in the United States.

The synagogue attack did not happen in a vacuum. According to the Anti-Defamation League, incidents of anti-Semitism increased 57% between 2016 and 2017. We've also seen a rise in hate crimes against immigrants (and people perceived to be immigrants), and there is good reason to believe that anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment go hand in hand.

What to do about all this?

On the macro level, we as a nation need to do better. We need to be more civil and more truthful. We need to listen more, and we need to think critically and be less wiling to accept the version of "reality" that comports with our own narrow prejudices. These are important policies points, but they are not really what I want to talk about in the wake of the massacre in Pittsburgh.

I want to talk about defiance.

The murders in Pittsburgh were motivated by hatred of Jews and hatred of immigrants. This was an act of terror, designed to intimidate us. It was the violent manifestation of the same hate that has, of late, become prominent in our country. Politicians--most notably our President, but many others as well--have fanned the flames of this hatred for political gain. The animosity has largely been directed at Muslims, Mexicans, and immigrants, but many "outsiders," including Jews, have also been targeted.

The reaction I have observed from my friends in the Jewish community has been unified and powerful: We are not intimidated by the haters and we are not afraid. We will not compromise or cower. We will continue to attend synagogue and engage in all the social, charitable, and religious activities that have been the hallmark of our vibrant community. We have survived persecution by Romans, Crusaders, Inquisitions, programs, Nazis, and terrorists. We are still here and we will carry on.

I saw this determination last week at a vigil at my synagogue. Over 3,000 people came to honor and remember those murdered and injured in Pittsburgh. The mayor of Washington, DC spoke, so did the governors of our neighboring states, Maryland and Virginia. Leaders of the local and national Jewish community were there, as was the Israeli Ambassador. Also present were clergy and lay leaders from many faiths. And so while the pain inflicted on our community is very real, the support we feel is overwhelming.

Since the attack in Pittsburgh, I have been to my synagogue four times--for regular events and special events related to the massacre. Maybe the best way to honor the martyrs in Pittsburgh is to continue to live our lives as Jews, and that is what we are doing.

As for my friends in the immigrant-advocacy community, I have also seen our determination. The attack in Pittsburgh was motivated by hatred and fear of "invaders," who the murderer thought were coming to the U.S. to "slaughter" his people. He specifically mentioned a refugee resettlement agency, HIAS, which has been helping displaced Jews and others since 1881.

The murderer's fear of these "invaders" does not come from nowhere. The President and many others have been lying about the alleged threat of refugees and other foreigners. They have been ginning up hatred and anger. I suppose this is their way of motivating their supporters to vote. But it also seems related to the attack in Pittsburgh, and it apparently has inspired private militia members to bring their guns to the border and fend off the "invasion." And why not? If we are being invaded by terrorists and gang members, armed resistance is the logical response.

The torrent of hate has effected immigrants and their advocates, and not just at the border. The HIAS office now has armed guards. Other immigrant advocacy groups have increased their security as well. The Pittsburgh attack and the regular threats received by advocates demonstrate that the danger is real.

But the lies and the hate have not stopped immigrant advocates from doing our jobs. Indeed, the situation is quite the opposite--more people than ever are donating and volunteering to help immigrants and refugees. In part, this is simply because people want to help others who are in need. It is also a response to rising xenophobia, and to the hatred and mendacity we see from some politicians and pundits. The bottom line, though, is that we are continuing our work to support immigrants and refugees despite--and because of--the current political environment.

Eleven Jews are dead. Other Jews and law enforcement officers are injured. There is no escaping this tragedy. But to the extent that the attack was designed to terrorize us and to prevent us from living our lives and pursuing Justice, it has failed. I have faith that even in these difficult times, we will never surrender to the forces of hate, and in the end, we will prevail.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: