Reflecting on Social Media’s Role in Synagogue Shooting

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- Some people--including leaders in the Jewish community--have taken notice of recent violent attacks based on hate and the way social media has amplified that hate.

As Guy McKeown of Wilkes-Barre sat on a bench in Public Square, Saturday's deadly attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh was on his mind.

"It's pretty much on everybody's mind today, yesterday, and today," McKeown said.

The massacre in Pittsburgh left 11 people dead. The victims were worshipping inside the Tree of Life synagogue.

While McKeown thinks about the attack. His thoughts move to the alleged shooter and what role social media and the internet might have had in his actions.

"They get on the wrong website, and they can be very easily manipulated into something as horrible as acts of violence," McKeown said.

"It's not the same anymore. I've been here since 2006, and I would say the last two to three years it's been chaos and confusion, not just in Pennsylvania but worldwide," said Dante Council of Wilkes-Barre.

Officials are treating the attack in Pittsburgh as a hate crime.

The Anti-Defamation League found anti-Semitic acts increased 43 percent last year compared to 2016. Those incidents included vandalism and harassment but nothing like what happened in Pittsburgh.

Jewish leaders in Wilkes-Barre say hate is not easy to conquer.

"It's been with us a long time, as is a lot of these 'isms,' and I think that they kind of end in the same way which is usually in a casket. Not good, whether it's for Jewish people or any extremists," said Rabbi David Kaplan, Congregation Ohav Zedek.

Rabbi Kaplan believes better communication may be a way to end the violence.

"I think we need to dial it back. We need to take a step back from the abyss because, really, we're approaching that moment where our entire culture is so broken apart, and people don't seem to want to listen," Kaplan added.

Kaplan says it will be a while before the healing process can begin for the victims in the Pittsburgh shooting and the Jewish community as a whole, but he hopes to start the process at a vigil that will be held at the Jewish Community Center in Wilkes-Barre at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

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