PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Tree of Life massacre will forever stand as one of the darkest days.
But a new documentary, “Viral: Anti-Semitism In Four Mutation,” goes inside the Tree of Life Synagogue for the first time since the 2018 shooting.
The documentary pairs the police-taped interiors of the Pervin Chapel, where much of killing occurred, with the harrowing accounts of those who survived the massacre.
“I was really concerned about the safety of the people who were with me, and I ushered them out to a big storage closet,” Rabbi Jonathan Perlman said.
We see where Perlman hid his congregants downstairs and hear him painfully recount how Melvin Wax ventured outside and into gunfire.
“And three of us were spared,” he said.
The poignant details include a bullet-scarred prayer book.
The power of the images has prompted a warning from the 10.27 Healing Partnership, which asks those close the tragedy to exercise discretion in seeing the film.
Filmmaker Andrew Goldberg agrees.
“This is a very personal decision someone would need to make to watch this. … They would have to make that kind of decision. We would never want to retraumatize someone,” Goldberg said.
The film frames Tree of Life as a pivotal event in the rise of right-wing nationalism in the United States but traces other strains of anti-Semitism from Europe to the Mideast, which for different prejudices now target the Jewish people.
“The Jew is blamed for causing immigration, bringing people from other countries. The Jew ruins the economy. The Jew is behind the scenes, the conspirer,” Golberg said.
All of this misinformation and conspiracy spread on the internet’s dark web, where former President Bill Clinton said agitators try to goad loners, like the Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers.
“If you do it long enough, you’ll pick up eventually someone crazy enough to do what was done in Pittsburgh,” Clinton said.
The film details how after decades of lying dormant, anti-Semitism is on the rise.
Goldberg said he cannot be optimistic that it will recede until the deep divisions in our society begin to heal.
“Because society is fracturing, we’re politically polarized. The right and the left are screaming at each other. And what happens then is bigotry, hatred and racism always come to the surface,” Goldberg said.