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‘I have faith in people’: A Sandy Hook dad on the 10th anniversary


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Ten years ago today, on Dec. 14, 2012, a man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary and opened fire, killing 20 first-graders and six adults in what remains the deadliest school massacre in American history. (This spring’s devastating attack on Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 students and two teachers.) 

 

Lenny Pozner’s son, Noah, died that morning in Connecticut. His two daughters, Sophia and Arielle (Noah’s twin), were at the school and survived the attack. In the years following the shooting, conspiracy theorists who contend the massacre was a hoax as part of a government plot to tighten gun control laws, have hounded Pozner, forcing him to move homes a dozen times. He’s been the subject of antisemitic harassment and death threats.

 

I caught up with Pozner to chat about faith, hate and the HONR network, a nonprofit he runs aimed at providing assistance for victims of mass casualties who are targeted by online hate. 

 

Every anniversary must be tough. How is this one different?

 

After 10 years, I feel more reflective about the loss. Noah’s sisters have become young women and I can’t help but to think about what he would be like today if he were with us.

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Noah’s twin sister, Arielle, at his grave a few years after the shooting. (Courtesy)

How has your faith helped you cope?

 

Despite the trauma of losing my son and the ongoing trauma of being attacked by hoaxers, I have faith in the basic goodness of people. Even after nearly 10 years, people still reach out to me to express both their sympathy and how learning about Noah has affected their lives in a positive way. People still volunteer with HONR to rid the internet of hate and harassment. I have faith in people.

 

This year’s anniversary comes after court verdicts demanding that Alex Jones, the radio host who instigated the conspiracy theories against you and others, pay more than $1 billion in damages. Does that give you any comfort?

 

People are being held legally accountable for the things that they say and directives that they give others. But hate and harassment rages on. Perhaps it will make people more aware that freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. But until hoaxers en masse start being held legally accountable, little will change.

 

What do you hope people remember about that day?

 

Hug your children, spend time with loved ones, create memories. I hope that people remember that their lives can change in an instant and those memories are all that they have.

FROM THE FORWARD

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Sure, Modi’in is a town rich with history. But it also has a shopping mall. (Getty)

A miracle happened somewhere around here | A look at life on the land where Hanukkah began: Three Israeli towns – Hashmonaim, Maccabim and Modi’in – are tourist attractions this time of year, and meaningful for residents all year round. When one of those residents, Nathan Cherny, walks along the hills and woods, he imagines how the Maccabees strategically used the area’s topography to defeat the Greeks. “It’s nice to live amid so much history,” said Cherny, who was born on Hanukkah. Read the story ➤

 

Opinion | I’m moved by the Palestinian solidarity at the World Cup. I hope it’s not being exploited: Qatar has heavily invested in encouraging pro-Palestinian activism throughout the competition, handing out flags and armbands to visiting fans. But Muhammad Shehada, our contributing columnist from Gaza, fears that the abundance of Palestinian flags may be aimed at distracting from Qatar’s human rights abuses. Read his essay ➤

 

Related: Morocco plays in the semifinals today. A new book explores the country’s golden era of Jewish life between 1912 and 1956.

 

To know what Saul Bellow thinks of cancel culture, watch this film: In The Adventures of Saul Bellow, a new PBS documentary, director Asaf Galay lays out what made the Pulitzer-and Nobel-winning author such a compelling and complicated figure. Through conversations with  Bellow’s surviving ex-wives, sons, and friend Philip Roth, Galay lets the viewer decide whether, as Bellow himself asked on his deathbed, he was “a man or a jerk.” Read the story ➤

 

But wait, there’s more…

WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

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Mark Aaron Griffin, a Messianic rabbi awaiting trial for sexual assault, leads the opening prayer at a school board meeting. (Screenshot)

🤦  Remember that Texas school board that banned an Anne Frank book earlier this year? This week, it invited a Messianic rabbi charged with sexual assault to open a public meeting with a prayer … Also at that meeting, a Jewish high schooler reported receiving “rather offensive and antisemitic comments” after wearing a Hanukkah sweater to her school’s Ugly Sweater Day. (JTA)

 

🎒  An Oklahoma law that blocks religious institutions from creating taxpayer-funded charter schools is likely unconstitutional, the state’s departing attorney general wrote in a nonbinding legal memo. His argument, based on recent Supreme Court rulings blurring the lines between church and state, including in schools, could provide framing for other states who want to follow suit. (Politico)

 

🙏  While we’re talking about schools … A Muslim group is asking for an investigation into a Miami-area teacher who appeared to admonish a group of Muslim students for praying. The incident was captured on video and went viral last week; the school dismissed the teacher. (Miami Herald)

 

🎶  Leonard Cohen’s kids claim a lawyer fraudulently took control of their father’s estate by swapping in a new page to a legal document after the songwriter’s 2016 death. The trust manages royalties for Cohen’s music as well as more than 8,000 photographs he took and poetry, novels and 243 journal notebooks he wrote. (Times of Israel)

 

🕎  Attorney General Merrick Garland will headline the annual lighting ceremony of the National Menorah outside the White House on Sunday, the first night of Hanukkah. (Twitter)

 

Quotable ➤  “I think of antisemitism as a virus, a virus almost like a herpes virus. Someone who was unlucky enough to get that virus, it’s very difficult to get rid of it.” – Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, special envoy to combat antisemitism, at a Tuesday event with lawmakers.

 

Mazel tov ➤  To Adam Sandler, who will receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the Kennedy Center announced on Tuesday

 

Shiva calls ➤  Shatzi Weisberger, a nurse and activist who spent years urging others to approach the process of dying with joy and wonder, died at 92. Film crews and journalists chronicled her final weeksStuart Margolin, a character actor who won back-t0-back Emmy Awards for his role on The Rockford Files, died at 82.

What else we’re reading ➤  Lev Golinkin, a Forward contributor who has over the past two years documented hundreds of statutes and streets around the world named for Nazi collaborators, has written a powerful essay in The New York Times about how Stanford, Harvard and NASA continue to honor men who helped Hitler murder millions and were convicted of war crimes. “How did the United States go from fighting the evil of Nazism to lauding ex-Nazis?” Golinkin asks.

ON THE CALENDAR

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Walter Lippmann was known as the 20th century’s dean of American political journalism. (Wikimedia)

On this day in history (1974): American journalist Walter Lippmann died at 85. Lippmann, who was born to a German Jewish family in New York, helped define the field of modern journalism — and helped reshape the American vernacular to include terms like “stereotype,” “Cold War” and, crucially, “American Dream.” Lippmann, who won two Pulitzer Prizes, co-founded the influential magazine The New Republic, which continues to publish today.

 

In honor of National Alabama Day, meet the civil rights attorney who will be the first Jew to serve in the Alabama legislature in nearly 50 years.

On the Hebrew calendar, it’s the 20th of Kislev, when the biblical Ezra gave an address to the Jewish people, telling them to follow the Torah and dissolve their interfaith marriages.

VIDEO OF THE DAY

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A new documentary on Disney+ traces the journey of Broadway actor Idina Menzel from her earlier years performing at bar and bat mitzvahs to starring in Frozen and on a 2018 arena tour across America. The film shows her arriving for a concert in Pittsburgh two weeks after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre.

“I thought about how we light candles in the Jewish religion,” said Menzel, who later wrote a song about the tragedy. “Sort of choosing light over darkness, choosing love over bigotry.” Watch the trailer above and read more about the film.

 

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Thanks to PJ Grisar and Talya Zax for contributing to today’s newsletter.

You can reach the “Forwarding” team at editorial@forward.com. 

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