I’m a former Pittsburgher with lots of family and friends still in and around the city. Dallas has been my physical home for almost 40 years now, but my heart still lives in the place where I was born, raised, educated and had my first job as a writer — at the old Jewish Criterion. Now I’m a columnist for the weekly Texas Jewish Post, and I can’t begin to say how many phone calls and online posts I received immediately after the terrible news broke about the killings at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha.
I frequently reference Pittsburgh in my “Mind’s I” column, so everyone wanted to know if my loved ones were involved, and everyone was very relieved when I could answer in the negative. I accepted their “thank God” because I knew it was offered with the best of intentions. But I was not relieved, because all of Pittsburgh’s Jewry is still — and always will be — my family.
My community here is with all of you there, and showed it on Sunday evening with an interfaith gathering of sorrow and support. It was held at Congregation Shearith Israel, largest of the Dallas area’s Conservative synagogues. Its main chapel seats 700, but many more were standing or floor-sitting for what was not a religious service, but an outpouring of sympathy, togetherness and resolve.
Clergy of every faith attended. Shearith’s cantor and the two cantors from Temple Emanu-El — largest of our Reform congregations — led us in song. Rabbis and ministers, male and female, offered prayers and words of healing and wisdom from their own traditions. Dallas’ chief of police and the head of our Jewish Federation updated us on their continuing security efforts, which have already included physical changes to the Federation/Jewish Community Center campus, plus outreach and assistance to all Jewish institutions and training seminars for community leaders and laity.
Everything ended with all rising to link arms and sing “We Shall Overcome” together. And it was for Pittsburgh we were singing, as well as for our own Jewish future.
We here want you in Pittsburgh to know that we’re there with you now, not just those of us who are still Pittsburghers from afar, but everyone. And not just those of us who are Jews. We know your Tree of Life will always stand — physically and spiritually.
And I’ll be there on a Saturday morning the next time I’m in Pittsburgh.
Harriet Pincus Gross