Though they play on ice, the Pittsburgh Penguins warmed hearts on Tuesday, Oct. 30, demonstrating solidarity with the Jewish community by hosting a blood drive prior to facing the New York Islanders.
The local hockey team also collected donations to support families and victims of the Oct. 27 slaughter of 11 congregants inside the Tree of Life building and delivering a resounding pre-game message of unity through a video and puck-drop presentation.
The day before the game, the Penguins “reached out and said, ‘We’d love to do something’ to aid the community,” said Adam Hertzman, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s director of marketing.
The Federation quickly accepted.
“We appreciate all the help we can get,” said Hertzman.
So after hosting the blood drive at PPG Paints Arena on Monday morning — 254 donated, according to the team — on Tuesday, Penguins players wore “Stronger than Hate” patches on their jerseys during the game, signed the jerseys and offered them to the Pens Foundation to auction off.
Proceeds from the jersey auction and the Penguins’ other fundraising efforts will benefit “the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and a fund established by the City of Pittsburgh Department of Safety to benefit police officers wounded during the attack,” the team, which included separate $50,000 gifts to both the Federation and the officers’ fund, announced.
In a tweet, the Penguins declared, “Hatred and discrimination have no place in Pittsburgh or anywhere else.”
Approximately two hours before Tuesday’s game, following an invitation from the team, approximately 30 Jewish Federation volunteers and staff stood outside of PPG collecting cash, check and credit card donations.
“Funds collected for Our Victims of Terror are earmarked for the psychological services, support for families, general services, reconstruction, additional security throughout the community, medical bills, as well as counseling and other services that may prove necessary for victims and first responders during their recovery,” the Federation announced. “Our religious and day schools will also most likely require additional resources to help our youth process this tragic episode. This fund will help both the Jewish community members and the first responders affected.”
Laura Cherner was among those collecting donations before the game.
“It was incredible, so many people came just to give money,” said the assistant director of the Federation’s Community Relations Council.
At one point, someone approached Cherner and said, “I was looking for you guys. I want to let you know that we love you, we are all with you and we stand with you.”
“I started crying like I have been since Saturday,” said Cherner. To see so many “make those person to person connections — it felt unbelievably supportive.”
Inside the stadium, the Penguins showcased a video interspersed with footage from the previous Sunday’s vigil and service at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall. The montage closed with a voiceover announcing, “We are Pittsburgh. We are proud and we stand together.”
An 11-second moment of silence followed as the names of the victims — Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger — flashed on screen. Federation representatives Sue Berman Kress, Bob Silverman and Josh Sayles then stood with Jeff Jimerson for the national anthem before Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, public safety director Wendell Hissrich and officers Anthony Burke and Mike Smidga, two of the first responders injured in the Tree of Life attack, participated in the puck drop.
“If you think about acts of anti-Semitism in history and how the community has reacted, we should think about how amazing our city has been,” Hertzman said afterwards. “The Pittsburgh community has been so supportive.”
Those wishing to contribute a monetary donation or bid on a jersey please can do so at treeoflife.givesmart.com. The auction will continue until noon on Nov. 13.
Additionally, those wishing to purchase a “Stronger than Hate” patch, identical to what the players wore, can do so at pittsburghpenguinsfoundation.org/product/stronger-than-hate-patch/. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reaced at firstname.lastname@example.org.