Squirrel Hill strong and proud
Guest columnist

Squirrel Hill strong and proud

Squirrel Hill is not your average neighborhood — it’s your above-average neighborhood.

Yeshiva School girls pray outside Tree of Life. (Photo by Jim Busis)
Yeshiva School girls pray outside Tree of Life. (Photo by Jim Busis)

This is the Pittsburgh I know and love. A Pittsburgh built on incredible family foundations. The kind of foundations that Henrietta Pussycat and King Friday XIII found so charming.

Squirrel Hill is not your average neighborhood — it’s your above-average neighborhood. It’s people looking out for each other, where your grandfather and my grandmother went to Allderdice High School together. Where going “up street” is your daily rite and where you argue whether Mineo’s or Aiello’s is the best pizza in the world.

Waiting for the 67H bus, the 61C or driving to wherever it is you are headed, you are bound to see friends — real friends who know you and love you. It is the place that reared me and almost my entire family. It’s the place I will forever proudly call home.

Sadly, we knew all of the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting — murdered while praying on a fall Saturday. Every member of the extended Squirrel Hill community took a bullet that day, but we will persevere and we will always be there for each other. Squirrel Hill is the best place anyone can grow up — and those who are still lucky enough to reside there will be there for each other and for all of us. I can’t think of a better community to hold the entire Jewish community on its shoulders.

Now it’s up to the rest of us, here in Philadelphia where I live and across the globe. I was in Israel when I found out about this horrible tragedy. I heard immediately and alerted my brother who lives only 50 yards from Tree of Life synagogue. The outpouring of love and support from our Israeli brothers and sisters was immense and continues to be. Because an attack on one Jew is an attack on all of us.

In Philadelphia, I see so much of that same Squirrel Hill spirit in all southeastern Pennsylvania’s five counties. Many of our great neighborhoods remind me of home because this region is filled with so many wonderful people. As I was talking to my colleagues at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia to help plan our collective responses to this horrible tragedy, I was thrilled to learn that all were already working arm-in-arm to be there for each other. I saw pictures of many vigils and couldn’t wait to see the pictures from Rodeph Shalom, where almost 2,000 people gathered to let the world know we will not tolerate anti-Semitism any longer.

So let’s look 300 miles west and remember these 11 victims — murdered senselessly while praying during Shabbat. Say their names often and particularly this weekend when you go to services.

Their names are Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger.

Tree of Life sits about three blocks from the real-life home of Fred Rogers. In his land of make-believe, something like this could never have happened. Mr. Rogers wanted to be your neighbor and have you as his. This neighborhood is different today. Not worse — just different. Having grown up there, I can assure you the residents will lead us to better times. PJC

Steven Rosenberg is the chief marketing officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and publisher’s representative of the Jewish Exponent.

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