When it came to describing how one loved her family, how another greeted all who came to the building and how another fervently supported the Pirates for decades, an interpreter was needed to convey the details. The prolonged process of pointing and pausing, while waiting for the sentences to be translated into Russian for the 40 visiting women, was deliberately repeated 11 times, as Alan Hausman, vice president of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, utilized photographs and narratives to describe each of the 11 victims of the Oct. 27 shooting.
“These were 11 of our friends. These are not just statistics of 11 victims,” said Hausman.
Following Hausman’s May 20 remarks, and those offered by other communal representatives, the Russian cohort presented three Russian/Hebrew Books of Psalms.
Inscribed within each copy was a message from Rabbi Berel Lazar, chief rabbi of Russia, reading: “The Jewish community of Moscow would like to present a Tehillim from our synagogue. We have been praying for your well being and safety. May the future bring comfort to your community. May we merit the ultimate peace and joy in our lives, with the coming of Moshiach.”
Among those who accepted a book on behalf of the Tree of Life, New Light and Dor Hadash congregations was Debi Salvin, twin sister of victim Richard Gottfried.
The sense of “shock” experienced on Oct. 27 in Russia is hard to describe, noted Margarita Lapidus, of Moscow. “No one could expect a thing like this in the United States,” she said. “From that moment on, you can never feel safe.”
Prior to visiting the Tree of Life building, the Russian delegation participated in morning services at the Lubavitch Center of Pittsburgh. In town for just 36 hours, the group was also scheduled to speak with students from Yeshiva Girls School, visit the mikvah and tour downtown, explained Blumi Rosenfeld, Yeshiva’s preschool director.
Before boarding the bus outside the Tree of Life building, Lapidus and her fellow travelers gathered to thank Salvin, Hausman and other members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. Said Lapidus, “It was the most significant part in our journey.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.