Oct. 30, 2018
President’s Message By Bryan Neft
For the last five days, I have been hurting. On Saturday, my Jewish community was shattered by the senseless violence of one person. The irony of the situation is that almost immediately my other community, my profession and those that are a part of it kicked in to high gear. I know I have been hurting because I have been looking for voices similar to my own and shutting out others. I have been struggling to come up with something positive to do to make sure that the victims did not perish for nothing. I know that I am not alone and that countless others share my anguish.
On Monday, I went to the initial hearing for the defendant. Something drew me there. I felt some need as a lawyer to do something to make sure my Jewish community was being protected; not that I had any role in the process. But I will tell you that my eyes welled up when I saw familiar faces with whom I have worked extensively in the bar association from the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Public Defender and the District Court. It gave me needed reassurance that justice is being and will be served. Just as I have my religious faith, I have faith in our legal system and the dedicated professionals who serve it. They’ve got this.
As events have unfolded, we — the ACBA — have been responding. On Saturday, we crafted a message to our members about the shooting that we distributed on Facebook and Twitter. Monday, I sent a message to leaders of the Jewish community offering legal assistance to those affected and to let them know about the Lawyers Fund, which provides financial assistance to lawyers and their families.
I’ve been at a loss as to what comes next. The Young Lawyers Division and the Homer S. Brown Division have approached me looking for ways to help. Yesterday, I happened to read Justice David Wecht’s essay in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. After wondering for a couple of minutes how he mustered up the strength to write it — knowing that he is hurting as much, if not more than I am — I recognized that his main theme was accurate: we need to fight hate, learn how to recognize and counter it. We should be talking not only about anti-Semitism but all forms of hate and discrimination. We also should be talking about things such as religious tolerance and religious freedom — what does it mean. This involves education; whether through our Criminal Litigation Section, our Federal Court Section, the Homer S. Brown Division, the Young Lawyers Division or any other division, section or committee that wants to be involved. This fits squarely within our mission of educating about the laws and our Constitutions. But one thing I can assure you that the Allegheny County Bar Association stands for:
WE WILL NOT TOLERATE INTOLERANCE.
This transcends political beliefs, and the stakes are too high for all of us. I look forward to hearing lots of ideas from our members on helping the victims and implementing a plan that I hope the entire bar association will rally behind.