by Adam Grobman
As Matt Maisel sat in High Holiday services this October, listening to Rabbi Eric Cytryn’s sermon on anti-Semitism, he thought about the role that anti-Semitism had played in his life and the lives of those around him.
As a Jewish Pittsburgh native, Matt, a news reporter for Fox43, had been touched by the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh a little more than a year ago. He had memories of running around the building as a child, where he and his family were members of the Conservative synagogue.
“When the news hit a year ago, I could just picture myself walking those halls again,” says Matt. “I still identify as a Pittsburgher, so I felt emotionally connected and hurt the same way as other residents of Squirrel Hill.”
With the anniversary of the attack bringing the tragedy back into people’s minds, he felt he could use his role as a reporter to bring this issue to the forefront. Last month, Matt sat down for an on-camera conversation focusing on the tragedy and the challenges facing Jews today with four of Harrisburg’s congregational rabbis: Eric Cytryn, Elisha Friedman, Peter Kessler, and Ron Muroff; as well as Rep. Dan Frankel, who represents Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood in the PA House of Representatives.
“I wanted people to realize that anti – Semitism is strong and it often exists right under our noses,” says Matt. “Next time, it may not be a shooting, but a stereotype or a comment that someone might use in common form and not even realize it’s a slur against Jews. I wanted people to see how prevalent anti – Semitism is so that maybe next time they see someone that is Jewish, they’ll ask questions instead of assuming things.”
Matt felt that this could be best accomplished through a conversation with rabbis. “These are four of the great minds in our community,” he says. “They all share the same message in that the way to defeat hate is through embracing one another. We can all learn from that lesson.”
Throughout the five-minute video, our community’s rabbis speak of a message of unity and interaction. “I think part of the reason why there is anti – Semitism is because we don’t know people,” Rabbi Ron Muroff says in the piece. “It is incumbent on all of us to get to know each other better.”
Matt says that the Squirrel Hill neighborhood is “hard to describe in terms of the diversity and closeness that is there.” He says that the message imparted by the rabbis he spoke with is a reflection of the neighborhood that he knows.
“Instead of being turned off because someone is different, educate yourself about them through questions and conversation,” he says. “It’s the simplest lesson and we forget it too often in society.”
This was Matt’s first opportunity reporting about anti – Semitism, and it was important to him to include his personal perspective. “I wanted to include myself as a member of the Jewish community because that’s who I am,” he says. “The majority of our viewers are non-Jewish and have a lot of questions about Judaism and what it’s like.”
With that in mind, Matt points to Rabbi Elisha Friedman, who said in the piece, “We might worship in a certain way that is different than other people in this country, but the way we live our lives as people is fairly similar.”
To view Fox43 Reporter Matt Maisel’s conversation with four of Harrisburg’s rabbis and Rep. Dan Frankel, as well as other coverage by Matt, visit www.facebook.com/MattMaiselFox43.