Maggie Feinstein was introduced to the community as the director of the newly created Pittsburgh Resiliency Center during a webinar on Thursday, Aug. 15. The center will be known as the 10.27 Healing Partnership.
Feinstein described the center as “a safety net, that is supposed to be able to provide services and activities that are not already provided in the community and make sure we are able to attend to the needs of people in the aftermath” of the massacre at the Tree of Life building.
The center will open Oct. 1 at the Squirrel Hill JCC and will be free for anyone in need of its services.
Feinstein said that the project will employ a full-time mental health professional as well as someone to greet anyone coming to utilize the center. “We are mindful that even the process of signing into the JCC can be hard and that it feels very different when you walk in to play basketball as opposed to when you’re feeling vulnerable or upset. The idea is that we will have someone who will walk down and greet you so that you don’t have to sign in yourself. They can then bring you up to the space.”
The center will also be used by other mental health professionals from Jewish Family and Community Services and the Center for Victims. She explained that “the space is community owned” meaning that clinicians and therapists can meet with community members there instead of having to find an alternative location.
Community is important to Feinstein and she views a gathering place as vital for healing. “This is a place of gathering. It’s not a place people come for transactional relationship. You don’t come in, wait for your appointment and then leave. People gather as community. It’s a little bit of an unconventional concept that’s totally normal to our human nature. We don’t have a lot of spaces where we are encouraged to come together to cry, laugh and talk about feelings that are hard and not always socially acceptable.”
Each visitor’s experience at the center will be completely unique and individualized. “This is a personal journey, for sure. There’s no one answer. I really believe that as individuals we are all well and we all have moments of not being well, and that’s universal,” said Feinstein, who has more than a decade of experience working as a therapist and working in the area of integrated mental health.
The 10.27 Healing Partnership is funded through a federal grant provided by the Anti-terrorism and Emergency Assistance Program. Because the grant provides funding after expenses are incurred, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has helped to fill the gap. According to Adam Hertzman, the director of marketing for Federation, “In any city, a resiliency center needs to be established before applying for government funding, and the Jewish Federation was proud to provide the startup money for our city’s center given the immense needs we are seeing here.”
The webinar was the second in a three-part series created by the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Council. According to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s website, the GPJC “is a cross-selection of the Jewish community spanning the religious, political and socioeconomic spectrum. It serves as a forum for sharing diverse Jewish and non-Jewish perspectives on key issues affecting the region.”
A final webinar outlining plans and guiding principles for the one-year commemoration of the Oct. 27 tragedy took place on Wednesday, Aug. 21, and featured Rabbi Amy Bardack, Federation’s director of Jewish life and learning.
While the resiliency center is located in Squirrel Hill it’s available to anyone, “for the communities outside of Pittsburgh or Squirrel Hill, it’s really important that they come in so that they can feel connected,” Feinstein said. “They probably already have their own communities, but I think that the rivers and bridges and tunnels create a disconnect that makes us feel an us and them. That’s not emotionally healthy. If people are feeling isolated or alone, that’s the best reason to come together because we all work towards wellness by feeling connected.”
“The 11 amazing people whose lives we lost that day, touched so many people in the city,” she added. “That’s one of the things for me, they touched so many lives. There is no geographic boundary to where they touched. Cecil and David Rosenthal were amazing stewards for this community. The people who are feeling their loss absolutely have space here regardless of religion or race.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at drullo@