“My job isn't to judge him ... my job is to care for him.”
People pay their respects at a memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue after a shooting there left 11 people dead. Image via Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images.
“Tikkun Olam” is a Hebrew phrase that roughly translates to “repairing the world.” While its meaning and importance among Jewish movements vary, it encapsulates their moral imperative to repair our society, world, and, ultimately, universe.
There is no greater example of Tikkun Olam in action than the work done by the doctors and nurses at Pittsburgh’s Allegheny General Hospital.
On Saturday, October 27, Robert Bowers, 46, was admitted to the hospital after suffering multiple gunshot wounds. Bowers was shot by police after allegedly murdering 11 congregants at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue.
During the heinous act, he was overheard screaming “All Jews must die!” and telling police, “They’re committing genocide to my people.”
But none of that mattered to the staff at Allegheny General Hospital.
“My job isn’t to judge him,” Dr. Jeff Cohen, the hospital’s president and a member of the Tree of Life Synagogue, told Channel 4 News. “Other people give that — that’s a pretty awesome responsibility. My job is to care for him.”
"My job isn't to judge him... my job is to care for him."— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) October 29, 2018\n
This Jewish doctor looked into the eyes of the man who killed 11 people in his own synagogue. pic.twitter.com/KwgjYAL49B
“Many of the people who attended to him were Jewish,” Cohen continued. “And they’re heroes. They did like the cops did; they did their job. They went and they confronted the problem, and they were true to their core beliefs, and I’m very proud of them.”
However, the irony of a vicious anti-semite being treated by Jewish healthcare professionals wasn’t lost on Cohen. “Isn’t it ironic that somebody who is yelling in the ambulance and in the hospital, ‘I want to kill all the Jews,’ is taken care of by a Jewish nurse and there’s a Jewish hospital president that comes in to check on him afterwards?” he told CNN.
In the eyes of Cohen, Bowers was a man who desperately needed help and it was the job of he and his staff to do so.
“People say that he’s evil, he’s this ... he’s some mother’s son,” Cohen said. “And how did he get from that to where he is today? That’s going to be a large debate that we have to wrestle with as a society.”
In the aftermath of the Tree of Life tragedy, it’s now our job to follow in the footsteps of Cohen and his staff by taking responsibility to repair the world.