Statement of Matthew Finkelstein, Co-Founder and board member of PZC, on the Feb 1 attack at San Francisco synagogue

On Wednesday, February 1, 2023, a man walked into the Schneerson Chabad Center where I pray and fired several shots from a handgun. Those present recall the gunman as saying “Hello my Jewish friends. I want to show you something.” He then produced a firearm and said, “Say hello to the Mossad for me” and began firing the weapon at the Aaron Hakodesh (the ark where the Torah is kept) over the heads of the rabbi and the congregation. The bullets turned out to be blanks, but the terrorizing effect produced is the same.
There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t don tefillin and worship with resilient victims of Soviet anti-Zionism at this Russian Chabad. Antisemitic anti-Zionism had been such a standard fabric of their experience, and now it’s following them here. Their despair was such that they didn’t even bother calling the police.

This little synagogue has street facing glass walls on both sides that separate us from the world and I’ve both marveled and feared at the robust display of Jewish pride and the vulnerability of displaying it in such a glass house.

The truth is that as Jews in the diaspora, we all live in glass houses and while Jewish self defense is needed, not even steel walls can protect us from bad ideas. Because our oppression is not rooted in a bullet. It is rooted in ideological hatred. This is yet another alarm bell to rouse from their slumber all those who still insist that anti-Zionism does not pose a threat to Jewish safety in the diaspora.

This is a hate crime and we urge the SFPD to investigate it as such and bring the perpetrator swiftly to justice. We and our extremism and antisemitism experts stand ready to assist with the investigation and prosecution of the individual responsible.