Local Synagogue Hears Terrorism Talk 3 Weeks Before Pa. Shooting

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By: Dale King Contributing Writer

Members of the Simcha of Aberdeen Hadassah women’s group at Temple Shaarei Shalom in Boynton Beach learned about terrorism, its causes, history and what people can do about it – during a lecture at a meeting in October.

The discussion, led by Dr. Sherrie Raz of Delray Beach, director of International Collaboration on Trauma and Resilience, was intended to be informational. Tragically, less than three weeks later, a gunman yelling anti-Semitic phrases shot 11 people to death at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“I honestly think this is not going to stop anytime soon,” Dr. Raz said last month, reflecting on the timing of her address. “This is indicative of the terrorism and anger in the human community.”

During her Oct. 8 talk, Dr. Raz defined terrorism as “premeditated violence perpetrated by non-state actors against non-combatants in pursuit of a political, religious or social goal, designed to coerce a government or to intimidate or convey a message to a larger audience.”

On Oct. 27, a truck driver, identified as Robert Bowers, 46, allegedly entered the synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, shot 11 people to death and wounded several others. Authorities said Bowers had ties to a neo-Nazi group, based on material found on his web page.

Acts of terrorism are designed to “leverage the psychology of fear to create emotional damage,” Dr. Raz said. As a result, people “worry about worst-case scenarios, the ones that are uncontrollable, catastrophic and involuntary” – such as the mass shootings in Parkland, Las Vegas and Orlando.

“Panic is the whole point of terrorism,” she added.

In addition, “terrorism is not an ideology, it is a tactic. So, we will never ‘win the war on terror.’ And there will always be bands of brothers willing to risk everything for the comradeship with all its glories and promises.”

She said terrorism began thousands of years ago, long before Hitler, Stalin, Mao and other political leaders with “hair-brained” schemes.

“After the Roman conquest of Judea two millennia ago, a group of resistance fighters stabbed Roman officials and the Jews who collaborated with them – hoping to force the Romans out.”

“In the 11th century, a sect of Shia Muslims perfected an early form of suicide terrorism by getting close to leaders who they thought had strayed from the faith by stabbing them in public, knowing that they would immediately be killed.”

“From the 17th-19th century, a cult in India strangled tens of thousands of travelers as a sacrifice to the goddess Kali.”

During her talk, Raz offered advice on what to do about terrorism:

  • Insist on stronger laws for control of terrorist organizations over the internet.
  • Insist on mental health interventions for those affected by any type of terror event.
  • Become aware of your environment.
  • Work for a more stable government and a stronger democracy.
  • Work toward a more peaceful world, in which all are accepted and groups that exclude certain people become extinct.