For Pittsburgh’s Jews, 5779 was a tough year.
As we are all acutely aware, on Oct. 27, 2018, a depraved anti-Semite with an assault rifle stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue building during Shabbat services and murdered 11 innocent worshippers at congregations Dor Hadash, New Light and Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha. He also seriously injured two other congregants, and six first responders.
It was the deadliest attack against Jews in U.S. history and it left us numb.
Eleven months later, we as a community are still grappling with the aftermath of the massacre. The attack permanently changed the lives of some members of our community. Many of us remain emotionally hobbled, anxious, depressed, scared, or at the very least, susceptible to triggers that cause us to relive the horror of that day as if it were happening in real time.
But we are not alone, and have not been alone. In that we take solace.
Almost immediately, letters and money and works of art arrived from all over the world. We as a community felt the love of local politicians and sports teams and churches and mosques and schools. We offer our deepest gratitude to friends, neighbors and strangers, representing diverse faiths and ethnic groups, that have stood by our side in solidarity since the morning of Oct. 27.
We at the Chronicle have served as witness to community reactions and struggles during these long months following the shooting, and have been particularly moved by the sheer generosity and goodness of our own Jewish community’s leaders and institutions. We have been present at myriad events in which the love and the care and the compassion have been so palpable it was as if the concept of chesed had assumed a physical shape.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and Jewish Community and Family Services instantly rose to take on the daunting task of providing support to the victims, families and survivors of the shooting — as well as to those in the wider community who wrestle with the reality of Oct. 27 — and have continued to proffer that support ever since. Their thoughtful professionalism, always putting first the well-being of those most acutely affected by the attack, cannot be overstated.
So, too, we commend Pittsburgh’s congregations that have opened their hearts and their doors to those who found themselves displaced after Oct. 27, and provided Dor Hadash, New Light and Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha with brick and mortar facilities to hold services and come together in sacred space as congregations. Rodef Shalom Congregation has housed Dor Hadash and Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, and Congregation Beth Shalom has been home to New Light.
In the darkest of times, with no playbook — and there is no imaginable playbook here — the organized Pittsburgh Jewish community took care of its own. We are so proud. And we are so grateful.
As we look ahead to 5780, let us recall the goodness and the generosity of Jewish Pittsburgh, and find comfort and security in the knowledge that we can depend on one another.
L’shana tova. pjc