Ari Mahler was working at Allegheny General Hospital last week when a man was wheeled in screaming, "Death to all Jews."
The man on the stretcher was none other than Robert Bowers and he had just opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh at a baby naming ceremony. Bowers killed eleven people and injured six more, all the while shouting anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Bowers was taken to Allegheny General with multiple gunshot wounds. The nurse who treated him, Ari Mahler, is Jewish.
Here's what we can learn from Ari Mahler.
But instead of meeting Bower's hatred with not unreasonable hatred of his own, Mahler showed him compassion. In a heartfelt Facebook post, the nurse explained why.
I am The Jewish Nurse.
Yes, that Jewish Nurse. The same one that people are talking about in the Pittsburgh shooting that left 11 dead. The trauma nurse in the ER that cared for Robert Bowers who yelled, "Death to all Jews," as he was wheeled into the hospital. The Jewish nurse who ran into a room to save his life.
To be honest, I'm nervous about sharing this. I just know I feel alone right now, and the irony of the world talking about me doesn't seem fair without the chance to speak for myself.
When I was a kid, being labeled "The Jewish (anything)", undoubtedly had derogatory connotations attached to it. That's why it feels so awkward to me that people suddenly look at it as an endearing term. As an adult, deflecting my religion by saying "I'm not that religious," makes it easier for people to accept I'm Jewish – especially when I tell them my father is a rabbi. "I'm not that religious," is like saying, "Don't worry, I'm not that Jewish, therefore, I'm not so different than you," and like clockwork, people don't look at me as awkwardly as they did a few seconds beforehand.
I experienced anti-Semitism a lot as a kid. It's hard for me to say if it was always a product of genuine hatred, or if kids with their own problems found a reason to single me out from others. Sure, there were a few Jewish kids at my school, but no one else had a father who was a Rabbi. I found drawings on desks of my family being marched into gas chambers, swastikas drawn on my locker, and notes shoved inside of it saying, "Die Jew. Love, Hitler." It was a different time back then, where bullying was not monitored like it is now. I was weak, too. Rather than tell anyone, I hid behind fear. Telling on the people who did this would only lead to consequences far worse.
Regardless, the fact that this shooting took place doesn't shock me. To be honest, it's only a matter of time before the next one happens. History refutes hope that things will change. My heart yearns for change, but today's climate doesn't foster nurturing, tolerance, or civility. Even before this shooting took place, there's no real evidence supporting otherwise. The FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center note that Jews only account for two percent of the U.S. population, yet 60% of all religious hate crimes are committed against them. I don't know why people hate us so much, but the underbelly of anti-Semitism seems to be thriving.