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Remember Father Coughlin? American Jews faced terrible attacks before the Pittsburgh massacre

Remember Father Coughlin? American Jews faced terrible attacks before the Pittsburgh massacre
A makeshift memorial stands outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Monday. (Matt Rourke / AP)

To the editor: The horrifying attack in Pittsburgh certainly deserves the focus of the nation and is a deep stain on the national conscience. But to say that it is the worst attack on Jews in American history is missing some context.

It ignores all the attacks on Jews that did not involve a gun. From 1929-39, Father Charles Coughlin spewed anti-Semitic hatred into the ears of his large radio audience weekly. From 1919-27, Henry Ford published his anti-Semitic screed, the Dearborn Independent. In the run-up to World War II, anti-Semites in the State Department refused to allow Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler to enter this country.

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These were likewise horrific crimes against Jews, although not committed with a gun. Never forget.

Charles Berezin, Los Angeles

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To the editor: The Anti-Defamation League finds a 57% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 over the previous year. Research published nearly 70 years ago on the “authoritarian personality” explains much of what is now happening in our country.

In 1950, social scientists focused on explaining how the Holocaust could have happened, noting the frequent association of anti-Semitism, nationalism and rejection of those who are “different.” Some argued that this kind of personality resulted from the way we raise our children.

Parents who punish without explaining why the punishment was necessary have children who do not tolerate ambiguity (black-and-white thinking, in other words). These people react to those with whom they disagree very negatively; the extreme among them even commit violence, like sending bombs to politicians.

In all countries, this type of personality is widespread.

Harry Triandis, Carlsbad

The writer is a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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To the editor: The terrible events of the last few weeks can be traced in part to one highly placed source: President Trump.

To understand why, suppose Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had been elected president in 2016. Can you imagine someone accused of sending bombs to Democratic politicians living in a van plastered with pro-Rubio or pro-Bush stickers? Do you think that the sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents since 2016 would have happened under a President Rubio or President Bush?

We’re in an ugly place now, and we know full well who helped get us here.

John Lynn, Edwardsville, Ill.

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To the editor: At the age of 82, I consider myself a Jew by tradition only, but now I realize that there are people out there who don’t even know me but still hate me enough to want to kill me.

It’s a sobering thought.

Tom Pontac, Seal Beach

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To the editor: How should we Jews respond to the mass killings in a Pittsburgh synagogue?

Jews — whether we are be Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or ethnic — need to unite and say, “Never again.”

Elliot Schubert, San Diego

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