When the man who shot and killed eleven at a Pittsburgh area synagogue was brought to the Allegheny general hospital to have his wounds treated, it was nurse Ari Mahler who cared for him. Ari Mahler is Jewish. The man who shot and killed eleven at the Tree of Life temple had screamed "Death to all Jews!" just an hour before was kept alive by the very people he wished to exterminate. Nurse Mahler wrote this last Saturday: “I’ve watched them talk about me on CNN, Fox News, Anderson Cooper, PBS and the local news stations. I’ve read articles mentioning me in the Times and the Washington Post. The fact that I did my job, a job which requires compassion and empathy over everything, is newsworthy to people because I’m Jewish. Even more so because my dad’s a rabbi.”
Compassion and empathy over everything.
Which brought me back to a time some twenty years ago, when my school's staff was given an opportunity to visit the Museum Of Tolerance in Los Angeles. While there, we were afforded an audience with a survivor of the Nazi death camps. He told us about how he escaped from a train car that was taking him and his family to extermination. His family was not as fortunate as he. After he told his story, someone asked what he would do if he encountered Hitler today. "I wouldn't kill him," he said. "I would build him a house in Israel. With glass walls and windows and doors, so every morning when he woke up, he would see us. That he could not kill us all."
And so there it was. Given a chance to exact revenge, he chose to enforce empathy. The number of times Jewish gunmen have broken into alt-right meeting groups and screamed "Death to all Nazis" sits squarely at zero. That is not how this is supposed to work. Life will go on. Every day we learn something new.
I learned something from nurse Ari Mahler. Here it is: “If my actions mean anything, love means everything.”