Archive | October, 2019

Families heeded sirens, but storm left homes badly damaged

Families heeded sirens, but storm left homes badly damaged

Posted on 31 October 2019 by admin

Submitted Photo
The Schlossers’ home was devastated by broken glass embedded everywhere. It is pictured here after being boarded up.

By Sharon Wisch-Ray
If you’ve ever met Laura Seymour, then you know she’s pretty laid-back.
The longtime JCC camp director, and her husband Jeff, are among those affected by the Oct. 20 tornado that ripped through Preston Hollow and decimated many homes near the JCC.
When the storm hit, Laura says she was watching the Cowboy game by herself, because Jeff was out of town. “I was watching the Cowboy game and they were doing so well. I happen to love watching the game. Not everyone thinks I’d enjoy football, but I do. And it was so exciting. But then the power went out and the alarms went off.”
Seymour explained that the sirens are right near the JCC and thus very loud at her home.
She decided to head to the lower bathroom in their split-level home.
“A friend of mine texted me and said, ‘There’s a tornado in your area, where are you,’ and I said, ‘I’m hiding in the bathroom.’ Two minutes later it went over and it was fast.”
Seymour says it was over before she could even think.
“I walked out and looked in the living room and saw the glass had blown out all the windows and Jeff was calling me. I walked upstairs and I said, ‘There’s no roof up there.’”
Seymour says she went outside to check on neighbors and people had begun to mill about. Once she realized that the neighbors were OK, she and a fellow JCC teacher who lived nearby walked over to the JCC to assess the damage. The outside was a mess and the walk over there was treacherous with power lines down and debris.
Although it was clear the JCC had sustained damage on the grounds, Seymour described what she found when they went inside.
“We walked into the J and it was fine. It didn’t sustain the kind of damage you would expect. The preschool looked great.”
With no roof on her house, Seymour had to decide her next steps.
“I walked home and charged my phone in my car and I came back up and slept at the J.”
Seymour said that their insurance company has been stellar. By Monday, they were in a hotel, and by Thursday, the company had moved them into a nearby townhome.
“We’ve been totally taken care of,” she says, grateful that there were no serious injuries and that everyone survived. “It’s only stuff.”
The Schlossers
When Cristie and Rodney Schlosser built their home, they incorporated a basement into the plans. That basement provided the necessary shelter when their home was pummeled by the violent tornado that ripped through St. Marks and then on to Tulip Lane. Rodney Schlosser said that his high school senior son, Lee, alerted him and Cristie to the approaching storm and “dragged us to the basement.” They just had moments to spare.
“We heard like a wet sheet baying and heard all this glass. That was stuff being thrown around once the windows broke.”
When they surfaced and surveyed the damage, they saw tiny glass shards everywhere.
“Glass, when it flies, it’s like shrapnel,” Rodney Schlosser said. “It’s embedded in upholstery, walls, floors, everywhere.”
Thankfully the Schlossers’ structure is fine, but most importantly they are grateful that no one was hurt.
“We feel very fortunate, there’s no loss of life or injuries,” he said. “We are very sad. We have shed some tears. There are things that are lost that you can’t find.”
Rodney Schlosser said he was particularly struck by the mobilization of the first responders. Not just police and firefighters, but workers from Oncor and Atmos as well, who worked around the clock to keep the neighborhood safe, restore power and repair leaks. Central Market, whose store at Preston Royal was devastated, moved their portable kitchen to the parking lot and fed first responders and affected residents three meals a day through Sunday.
The outpouring of support has been overwhelming for the Schlosser Family.
“There were three folks who showed up at our doorstep who walked blocks to get here because the whole area was cordoned off.” Those were Temple Shalom (where Rodney is the board president) members and Rabbi Andrew and Debbie Paley. They all pitched in to help the Schlossers begin the recovery process.
“It was touching,” he said.
The Israel Family
Nancy, Solomon and Serena Israel had just come home from having dinner at some friends’ sukkah. They were in a rush to get home and walk the dog before it started to rain. It was drizzling.
“We heard the sirens and we halfheartedly went to the guest bathroom with the cats and the dog. The power flickered and then it went out. And then we heard this crash. We felt the house shake. The pressure in our ears changed and then we sat in the dark waiting, literally holding our breath waiting to see if we were going to get ripped up by the tornado or if the house was going to come crashing in. What struck me most was the silence.”
As soon as the storm was over, Solomon Israel went out and said, “You have a tree coming through your kitchen.” The Israels’ beloved oak tree, which has been estimated to be between 120 and 150 years old, had crashed through their home.
“It’s like a death in the family. I know people have suffered so much worse, but I think everyone’s suffering is unique. I’m grateful that we still have a roof over our heads, but it just broke our hearts.” Nancy Israel explained that they bought their house because of that tree and when they renovated it, they went to great lengths to make sure that the tree would flourish.
She says that they will probably have to be out of their house for three to six months.
“You have to be grateful for what you have. We have our lives, we are safe, we are free. We are grateful for the outpouring of love from our friends.”
Nancy Israel says her neighbors immediately checked on them and have brought food by the house. They’ve gotten to know each other better.
“We hurt together, we will heal together,” she said. “It also made me realize that with all the tribalism that is going on in the news right now — in a disaster, nobody cares who you vote for. They just care about each other. I think that’s an important message.”

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Jewish community begins rebuilding after tornado

Jewish community begins rebuilding after tornado

Posted on 30 October 2019 by admin

Photo: Aaron Family JCC
Despite its front doors being blown out from the storm, most of the damage to the Aaron Family JCC was external and the J was open for business Monday, including seniors having hot lunch and programming and Goldberg Early Childhood Center students attending class.

Federation coordinates multiple agencies to shoulder crisis


Through grit, hustle and “the power of the collective,” the Dallas Jewish community mobilized its resources to assist the organizations and families that were displaced by the Oct. 20 tornadoes.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas President and CEO Mariam Shpeen Feist and A.J. Rosmarin recapped the community effort in an email to the community Friday before Shabbat.
“The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas has been moving toward our ‘new normal’ in the aftermath of Sunday evening’s tornado. We are grateful that our partner agencies, congregations, Jewish organizations — locally and nationally, local agency executives, and rabbis have reached out to see how they can assist our Dallas Jewish community as a whole.
“As you expect of your Federation, we have convened several organizations which are offering resources to the community. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
“•Jewish Family Service (JFS) has provided the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas with temporary office space this week in their building. They’ve gone out of their way to help us feel at home;
“•Jewish Community Center (JCC) has provided office space beginning next week while the Federation’s offices next door are uninhabitable for the next few months;
“•Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA), Congregation Ohr Hatorah, and Simcha Catering & Event Design are providing the Jewish Federation with lunch for our staff as we work to continue business as usual alongside all our mitigation planning;
“•Simcha Catering & Event Design are ensuring that our seniors, who have been displaced, continue to receive their hot, kosher Meals on Wheels meals;
“•Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, Congregation Tiferet Israel, Congregation Shearith Israel, Bnai Zion and Legacy Senior Communities have offered space in their buildings for the Federation to hold internal and external meetings along with events;
“•Legacy Senior Communities is conducting a collection of items geared toward seniors’ needs and is partnering with Jewish Family Service, JCC, Temple Emanu-El and Congregation Shearith Israel to best distribute the items;
“•Congregation Shaare Tefilla has taken in the JCC’s Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center so they can continue to offer childcare to their families even as their building is shut down by the storm;
“•Greene Family Camp has been offering pop-up day camp at Temple Emanu-El for children whose schools have been closed by the storm;
“•Congregation Shearith Israel has set up a collaborative spreadsheet where individuals can post resources and expertise they have and are ready to offer to those in need as they rebuild their lives;
“•Temple Shalom has offered to host Community Homes for Adults, Inc.’s (CHAI) digital infrastructure until they are up and running;
“•Federation’s Community Security Initiative Director, Bill Humphrey, has been working with the Dallas Police Department and the JCC to ensure our campus is monitored and the perimeter is secured around the clock;
“… and many, many more. Our organized Jewish community is in close contact.
“Additionally, our national system, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has been in touch with us daily to ensure we have the resources to help our community recover. They are ready and willing to help with our infrastructure whether we need it now or in the future.
“This is the POWER OF THE COLLECTIVE.
“As a reminder, should you need any emergency services or someone to speak with during this difficult time, please call the Federation’s hotline at 214-369-3313. Your call will be returned during normal business hours.”
The JCC
Power was restored to the Aaron Family JCC Friday, Oct. 25, and the JCC reopened Sunday, Oct. 27. The Northaven entrance to the J remains closed and members are asked to enter through the Valleydale entrance.
Seniors were eating hot lunches and the Goldberg Early Childhood Center was open on the JCC campus Monday, though its outdoor areas are still being cleared of debris.
ECC Director Tara Ohayon has kept in close contact with ECC families through detailed daily emails which include tips to talk to young children about the storm.
“A good rule of thumb when talking about these difficult topics is to take your child’s lead. Answer the questions that they ask without giving too much information. Naturally we elaborate when answering their questions and in these situations, sometimes our elaborations can give them too much information. When we give more info than they need, we could accidentally give them something new to worry about.”
On Monday morning, the J hosted GECC parent and psychologist Kristen Ohlenforst, who shared additional ideas on how to talk to young children about the tornado. To see the video visit: https://youtu.be/JQMCAnWcONY.

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Alex Bregman breaks a World Series home run record

Alex Bregman breaks a World Series home run record

Posted on 30 October 2019 by admin

HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 29: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros hits a solo home run in the first inning during Game 6 of the 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — Most of the news surrounding Houston Astros slugger Alex Bregman on Tuesday night focused on his “bat carry” — how he ostentatiously carried his bat down to first base while watching his first inning home run sail over the left field fence before dropping it. He apologized for the move after the game.

But the Jewish third baseman’s blast was historic, too: It was his fifth in a World Series, setting the all-time record for most World Series home runs by a third baseman.

It was his third homer of this year’s Series, which also made him the youngest American League player to hit three in a Fall Classic since Mickey Mantle in 1956.

If the Astros win the Series — it heads to a decisive seventh game on Wednesday night — Bregman has a solid case to be its Most Valuable Player. One of his homers was a grand slam and he has 8 runs batted in through the six games.

The accolades keep piling up for Bregman, who had a monster year, hitting .296 with 41 home runs and 112 RBI.

Bregman talked to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last year about representing Jews on such a big stage and being proud about it.

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Greene Camp, Emanu-El help those hit by tornadoes

Greene Camp, Emanu-El help those hit by tornadoes

Posted on 30 October 2019 by admin

Photo: Submitted by URJ
Participants and staff at a day camp by Greene Family Camp and Temple Emanu-El Youth Learning + Engagement to help families impacted by Dallas tornadoes.

By Kate Bigam Kaput
On Sunday night, Oct. 20, the Dallas/Fort Worth area was hit by severe thunderstorms, including 10 confirmed tornadoes, which devastated parts of Dallas and the surrounding communities and directly impacted members of the Jewish community. On behalf of the Reform Movement, our hearts and prayers go out to all whose homes, neighborhoods, schools, and businesses have been damaged and to all who are displaced.
The staff of our URJ Greene Family Camp (GFC) immediately knew they wanted to mobilize to help affected families by providing child care, parent education and communal gathering opportunities. They partnered with Temple Emanu-El Youth Learning + Engagement to put on a day camp at the synagogue, which was open 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. through Friday, Oct. 25, for children whose schools were closed due to the storm.
“This day camp served some of the families most deeply affected by the tornadoes, allowing parents to meet with insurance agents and begin the process of recovery while we provided a fun, kid-centered place for their children to play and have fun,” says Rabbi Andrew Terkel, director of year-round programs at GFC.
The day camp was a combined effort between the camp and the synagogue, with help from Eli Cohn-Wein, executive chef of the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas (himself an alumnus of the Reform Movement’s camping system) and several GFC summer staff members who stepped in to help.
The program was decided upon and announced late Monday night, Oct. 21, and by the next morning, the initiative was up and running, complete with arts and crafts, music, cooking, sports, obstacle courses and face painting.
Though schools have since reopened, GFC and Temple Emanu-El stand ready to continue to assist those who were displaced or otherwise impacted by the storm. Their staff and programming remain on standby through end-of-day Friday — just in case families still need child care during the day.
The Reform Movement has rallied to aid those impacted by past natural disasters, including Hurricane Harvey. Then, too, Greene Family Camp played a leading role in efforts to help and provide support to those most affected by the storm.
“It’s nice to be able to do what we are best at and be helpful to the community,” Rabbi Terkel says, “and we’re so glad to have such strong synagogue partners like Temple Emanu-El in best serving the Jewish and wider community of Dallas — not just in tough times, but all the time.”
How you can help
If you want to send assistance to those impacted by the recent tornadoes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, consider sending gift cards to the two local Reform congregations that are gathering donations to be shared with those in their community who are most in need. Here are their requests:

  1. Temple Shalom is collecting gift cards to Target, Lowe’s, Kohl’s and Home Depot.
    Schools to the south of Temple Shalom have been damaged beyond repair (in the Dallas Independent School District), and more than 100 families have been displaced in the synagogue’s neighborhood district, the Richardson ISD.
    The temple has offered its facility space for affected organizations in need of meeting space and made sure members know they can come to the synagogue for electricity and hospitality. The congregation is providing ongoing updates on its website as a means of updating its members about how they can offer donations and provide additional help.
    Donations should be sent to:
    Temple Shalom of Dallas
    c/o Steve Lewis, Executive Director
    6930 Alpha Road
    Dallas, TX 75240-3602
  2. Temple Emanu-El of Dallas is collecting Visa gift cards, as well as gift cards for Corner Bakery and HEB Grocery (which can be purchased online).
    These gift cards will first be distributed to those impacted within the synagogue community, and any unused or unclaimed donations will be distributed to other community partners whose members are in needs. Donations should be sent to:

Temple Emanu-El Dallas
c/o Karen Hoffman
8500 Hillcrest Ave.
Dallas, TX 75225-4204
See more photos from this partnership between URJ Greene Family Camp and Temple Emanu-El on the camp’s Facebook page, then check out GFC’s year-round and summer programming offerings.
Have something to say about this post? Join the conversation in The Tent, the communications and collaboration platform for congregational leaders of the Reform Movement. You can also tweet us or tell us how you feel on Facebook.
Kate Bigam Kaput is the assistant director of messaging and branding for the Union for Reform Judaism and, in this role, serves as a content manager and editor for ReformJudaism.org. A prolific essayist and lifestyle blogger, Kate’s writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Esquire, Woman’s Day, Cleveland Magazine, HeyAlma.com, Jewish Women Archive and more. Kate, who grew up at Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson, Ohio, holds a degree in magazine journalism and lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband.
This article first appeared on urj.org and is reprinted with permission.

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Pennsylvania governor orders flags to half-staff to mark 1 year since Pittsburgh synagogue attack

Posted on 25 October 2019 by admin

Pittsburgh Anti-Semitic Shooting: 1 Year Later

(JTA) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a proclamation calling for a day of remembrance and ordering state flags to half-staff to mark the one-year anniversary of the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue building that left 11 worshippers dead.

The proclamation extends the City of Pittsburgh’s resolution declaring the day “Remember Repair Together Day” statewide to include the whole state, according to local reports.

It also orders the state flag on all commonwealth facilities, public buildings and grounds to half-staff from sunrise until sunset on Oct. 27, 2019, the one-year anniversary of the attack. The United States flag will remain at full-staff.

“A year has passed, but I continue to carry sorrow for the victims and their families of this heinous attack,” Wolf said on Friday when he signed the proclamation. “We must honor them by remembering, and through our thoughts, prayers and actions. I ask all Pennsylvanians to spend Oct. 27 doing the same in their honor.”

Wolf honored the 11 victims of the attack last month while on a visit to Auschwitz, including writing their names in the memorial site’s guestbook.

“My visits to Holocaust sites reaffirmed my belief that we need to work every day to stop anti-Semitism and hate from growing in Pennsylvania,” Wolf also said Friday. “By reaching out to cultivate bonds of friendship and understanding, we observe the one-year mark of the attack at Tree of Life with action that helps strengthen our commonwealth and prevent hate from growing.”

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I’m a rabbi who lost congregants in the Pittsburgh shooting. Here’s how we’ve grown this year — and where we still need help.

I’m a rabbi who lost congregants in the Pittsburgh shooting. Here’s how we’ve grown this year — and where we still need help.

Posted on 25 October 2019 by admin

PITTSBURGH-AUGUST 7:Memorial objects outside the Tree Of Life Synagogue on August 7, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Rabbi Jonathan Perlman

PITTSBURGH (JTA) — I have been the rabbi of the New Light Congregation in Pittsburgh for nine years. This year, at Kol Nidre services on Yom Kippur, I preached about calm. 

Our congregation is part of a maelstrom going around the world right now of anger and extremism. Last year, we and our fellow Jews at the Tree of Life congregation, were the targets of one man’s anger. Now, it is time for us to calm down. 

Trauma is a wound you carry with you forever. Unlike grief, which can go through predictable steps and leave the psyche, trauma has stickiness to it. It makes a home in the mind; it can damage the spirit. It sends reactive impulses throughout the nervous system.  

Whenever a car backfires on the street, I feel it in my bones. For some, they hear a piercing sound and run. Action movies are no longer entertaining. Talk of the “massacre” can break a mood. People take circuitous routes around town to avoid bad memories. Others swear that they will not enter the Tree of Life building ever again.

If one would ask the question, “Where are we today?” I would say that we are in a state of repressed shock. People constantly ask me how I am doing, and I just shake my head. I know they mean well, but the wound is still fresh, and I just don’t want to talk about it.

I would say that is true for many of our members at New Light. I have persuaded many of our members and their children to begin psychotherapy. I think a large number of members have sought out the services of Jewish Family and Children’s Services and the Center for Victims, even those who have lived a lifetime and never needed the services of a trained therapist before. I wonder how many Pittsburghers are still talking in the rooms of sensitive therapists to mitigate their own traumas and cope with their own worries.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman

The fear that something frightening could happen is a repeating curse that Jews see in their own “lachrymose history,” as scholar Salo Baron put it in the early 20th century. We never thought it could happen here in America, and yet it did. 

I am heartened by the overwhelming amount of positive sentiment coming our way; donations, letters, art, tokens of love and hope arrive daily from all over the world. In our city, whose citizens registered the attack through tears and sorrow, there were multiple positive responses that cannot be counted. Pittsburgh is a city of champions. I have never felt so grateful for the support we received internally from our own Jewish Federation, JFCS, and Congregation Beth Shalom, and externally from the Office of the Mayor and City Council, from our sports teams, from businesses, small and large, to schools and to all our neighbors in the five county area that stood with us at rallies and vigils.

But there is still more work to be done. The U.S. Justice Department-funded Center for Victims in Pittsburgh has blundered twice in the last month: They rejected a guilty plea from the shooter who started this horror, insisting on a trial planned a year from now. And they have scheduled the trial four days before Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days in the Jewish year.

This trial will certainly re-traumatize the sensitive among us and bring back the journalistic circus that will increase our pain. 

On the plus side, New Light has enjoyed a year of members stepping up to continue the rich traditions of our synagogue. We started a Hebrew reading program. New members have learned how to read the cantillation from the Books of the Prophets. Adult education classes are fuller than ever. The Board is engaging in important existential questions about our future.  

There are those who are engaged in memorialization and others who look for opportunities to bring joy and calm though musical events and suppers. I was very delighted to see Leigh Stein, daughter of our beloved Dan Stein, throw the first pitch to her brother Joey at a recent Pirates game. Their father coached them for years at baseball and softball games.  

There is something about living in the moment and tuning out the noise, the honking, the cursing, the finger pointing and drama that descended on our brave little city. We are not a big metropolis that thrives on that kind of caustic energy. Pittsburgh is different. 

We discover mindfulness in our daily prayers, marking Shabbat and finding inspiration in our Torah. That is what our martyrs did. We are following their example. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.

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Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue building will reopen as a ‘center for Jewish life in the United States’

Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue building will reopen as a ‘center for Jewish life in the United States’

Posted on 25 October 2019 by admin

Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in the Squirrel hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Credit: Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Anti-Semitic Shooting: 1 Year Later

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The Tree of Life synagogue building, the site of an attack a year ago that left 11 worshippers dead, will reopen as a “center for Jewish life in the United States.”

The Tree of Life Congregation issued a statement to announce its new vision for the building on Friday, Oct. 18.

The home of three different congregations has not reopened since the attack on Oct. 27, 2018. The shooting left the building “unsuitable for worship,” according to the statement. It was in need of serious repair and renovation before the attack took place, the statement mentioned.

Tree of Life’s vision for the future of the property calls for the space to be a “cooperative and collaborative space that brings together stakeholders in a shared environment that includes places for Jewish worship memorial, education and social engagement, exhibit space for archival historical artistic expression, as well as classrooms and training spaces.”

The idea was announced to the congregation during Yom Kippur services.

“We are poised to become an incredible center for Jewish life in the United States,” Tree of Life’s Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said in a statement. “When we reopen, and we most certainly will, I want the entire world to say, ‘Wow, look at what they have done.’ To do anything less disrespects the memory of our 11 martyrs.”

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What happens to the memorial objects left at the site of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

What happens to the memorial objects left at the site of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Posted on 25 October 2019 by admin

Pittsburgh Anti-Semitic Shooting: 1 Year Later

By Ben Sales

PITTSBURGH (JTA) — Eric Lidji remembers people leaving objects in sets of 11.

Eleven white feathers. Eleven Jewish stars. Eleven egg-shaped sculptures.

But mostly, Lidji remembers the stones — some 2,000 of them spread around the other memorials left at the synagogue in simple tribute to the 11 Jews who died there at prayer on Oct. 27, 2018.

After the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, thousands of teddy bears arrived from across the country. In Pittsburgh, people left stones.

Lidji understood: Stones are what Jews traditionally place on gravestones. But the stones left at the Tree of Life synagogue were not to mark the victims’ final resting place but their place of death.

“You’re seeing the outpourings of all humanity in some sense,” Lidji said. “There’s a lot of notes, there’s a lot of posters. There’s a lot of objects. Some of them are so unique, it’s hard to even categorize them.”

As the designated archivist of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, Lidji has taken it upon himself to collect, preserve and document as many mementos of the shooting and its aftermath as he can find. Everyone in Squirrel Hill — the intimate Jewish neighborhood where the shooting took place — has been processing and remembering the attack in their own way. But aside from those who survived the shooting, Lidji’s labor of remembrance has been among the most physically tangible.

“Our constituency has not been born yet,” Lidji said. “The big thing that an archive does is it preserves original things so that people in the future can have access to something that was created a long time before they were born. This community is not going to forget this event for a long time, but there will come a time in the future when not only was most of the community born after this event, but maybe their parents were born after it.”

For eight years Lidji, 36, has worked in various capacities at the Rauh Jewish Archives, which has been collecting the documentary and material history of the Pittsburgh area’s Jewish community for three decades. He became director two years ago.

Housed in the Heinz History Center museum, the archive consists of shelves upon shelves of boxes under fluorescent lighting. Lidji said a busy year for the archive would involve collecting about 100 linear feet of material, most of it decades old.

At last count, Lidji has collected 171 linear feet of memorial objects and notes connected to the shooting. Along with some staff and volunteers, he cleared all of the memorial objects from the synagogue grounds a couple weeks after the shooting, and then again about five weeks later around Hanukkah.

Lidji has also catalogued memorial items mailed to the synagogue over the past year. The majority of the collection is paper, including the very first item he collected: the program and seat cards for the vigil held the day after the shooting at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. He is also amassing a digital archive of articles, websites and social media posts related to the attack.

“A lot of the letters are so intimate that if you didn’t know what had happened, you would almost think the nature of the tragedy was something on the family level,” he said. “It’s really remarkable to watch people process a large public event on a personal level.”

One of the most intensive tasks was preserving the makeshift memorial that community members assembled around the synagogue. About a dozen people, most of them volunteers, brought thousands of individual items inside, laid them on butcher paper to dry them, separated out the notes and composted the flowers. The process took nine hours.

Lidji cannot publicly display many of the objects he has catalogued because most of the collection is owned by the congregations that prayed at Tree of Life, not the archive itself. But photos of the objects showcase a range of artistic and emotional responses to the shooting.

There is a tree painted on a wine bottle, perhaps an homage to the synagogue’s name. There is a wooden bowl, sent by a local church and filled with green paper cut in the shape of leaves, each one bearing a message of comfort. There is an intricate wicker Jewish star. Colorful rows of origami cranes. Quilted hearts.

“A lot of these things, especially the art objects, you get the sense that this is coming from someone who either is a professional artist or, if they’re not professional, art is such a large part of their life that this is how they process things,” Lidji said. “There’s something I find interesting about people bringing, almost as an offering, a piece of something that they do.”

Archiving the year of mourning, he said, has amounted to a second full-time job, as the regular work of the archive has continued apace. And even a year later, items continue to stream in. After the High Holidays, Lidji attempted to collect booklets from neighborhood synagogues that reference the attack and its victims.

“Whatever pain those of us who are several rungs removed feel is so vastly different from the people who were close to it,” he said. “What we’re dealing with is sad, and sadness is a part of life. It’s nice to have a role to play.”

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Jewish community, Pennsylvania governor reflect one year after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Jewish community, Pennsylvania governor reflect one year after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Posted on 25 October 2019 by admin

People pay their respects at a memorial in front of the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh to the 11 Jewish victims of a mass shooting one week earlier, Nov. 4, 2018. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Pittsburgh Anti-Semitic Shooting: 1 Year Later

By Jackson Richman

(JNS) Almost a year since the Oct. 27 shooting at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Jewish community has continued to offer reflections on the deadliest attack in American Jewish history.

“We observe on Sunday the anniversary of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history, in which 11 innocent people were murdered simply because they were Jews,” said the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in a statement. “We mourn the lives lost and the senseless carnage wrought one year ago. We stand in solidarity with the family and friends of those killed and injured, and the entire Pittsburgh Jewish community.”

“This tragedy ended the age of innocence for American Jewry. It can no longer be said that we are immune to the pandemic of anti-Semitism,” the statement continued. “We must learn from this tragedy and work to prevent further occurrences. Security at all communal institutions including synagogues, schools and centers must be enhanced while we maintain them as inviting and open facilities.”

The organization added, “As we mark this solemn occasion, words and condolences are not enough. There must be action from all sectors of government and society. Jews and non-Jews alike must unite against anti-Semitism in all its forms, at home and abroad, if the increasingly urgent threat of global Jew-hatred is to be confronted.”

B’nai B’rith International has raised money for its Pittsburgh Healing Fund and will be distributing the funds toward mental-health support for survivors and a program to assist first responders, including organizations such as the Jewish Family and Children Services of Pittsburgh.

The B’nai B’rith fund will also support a program to assist first responders.

“All Americans, including American Jews, have the right to expect our centers of worship to be safe havens where we can connect at once with our fellow faithful and the Divine,” said the Simon Wiesenthal Center in a statement. “It brings us great sadness that after that terrible day, so many Jews no longer feel safe in these precious and sacred gathering places.”

“Things have gotten worse, not better, since Pittsburgh. We will continue to fight this rising tide, partnering with our allies in law enforcement, education, the clergy and government,” continued SWC. “But what is most needed is the involvement of good-hearted people in every city, town, church and school who recognize the manifestations of anti-Semitism, both obvious and subtle, and are willing to speak up and say: No, not here, not with our children, not in our community.”

Responding to calls for more safety provisions, Pennsylvania state lawmakers included $3.2 million in funding and expanded safety opportunities for at-risk schools in the FY 2019-20 budget. Pennsylvania was the first state in the nation to fund security personnel at nonpublic schools through the Safe Schools Targeted Grant Program and now, nearly five years later, the Commonwealth has expanded safety provisions to include security equipment and programs grants.

The police officers who were wounded in the shooting, who have since been back at work, have expressed appreciation to Pittsburgh’s Jewish community for its support.

’We need to stop violence using every tool possible’

“It’s difficult to believe a year as passed since the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue,” Gov. Tom Wolf told JNS. “I’ve carried sorrow for the victims, their families and the community as I sought to understand why this heinous attack occurred and how we can prevent anything like it from ever occurring again.”

Wolf honored the shooting’s victims last month while visiting Auschwitz in Poland, where he wrote their names in the memorial site’s guestbook. He also went to the Holocaust memorial in the Lithuanian town of Paneriai, where 70,000 Jews were killed. At each site, the governor carried the mezuzah that was on the office door of Tree of Life rabbi Jeffrey Myers.

The ornate mezuzah snapped when police broke down the door of the synagogue in their rescue efforts and to stop the suspect, Robert Bowers. Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him.

Wolf has signed a proclamation declaring Oct. 27 as an official day of remembrance, ordering state flags to half-staff one year after the attack. While state flags will be at half-staff, the U.S. flag will remain at full-staff.

“The shooting at Tree of Life synagogue revealed hate here in Pennsylvania. We need to do everything we can to stop it before it grows,” said Wolf. “We need to work together to prevent Pennsylvanians from being attacked due to bigotry, and we need to stop violence using every tool possible. That includes everything from programs supporting tolerance to legislation preventing future shootings.”

The synagogue has announced that it will reopen and continue to use the building as a place of worship. It will also utilize the space for classrooms, exhibits, social events and include a memorial to commemorate the lives lost in the mass shooting.

A date for the reopening has yet to be set. The building has not been in use since the shooting.

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Resource available to help deal with grieving associated with Pittsburgh-shooting anniversary

Resource available to help deal with grieving associated with Pittsburgh-shooting anniversary

Posted on 25 October 2019 by admin

A memorial outside the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh following the mass shooting on Oct. 27, 2018, that left 11 Jewish worshippers dead. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Pittsburgh Anti-Semitic Shooting: 1 Year Later

By Faygie Holt

(JNS) In synagogues across the nation this weekend, Jews will gather to remember the 11 Jewish worshippers who were shot and killed during Shabbat-morning services one year ago, on Oct. 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

From their pulpits, rabbis are geared to offer words of comfort and reflection. To give them some guidance, the American Jewish Committee created a handbook called “Sinat Chinam: A Resource Guide for Rabbis and Others on Anti-Semitism.” The words sinat chinam are translated as baseless hatred, referring to hatred between Jews.

In choosing it for the title, AJC is using applying to hate of all kinds: anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism—all baseless and without cause.

The 60-page booklet contains biographies of the victims; worship resources, including prayers and recitations written after the Pittsburgh shooting; biblical quotes; sources on hatred, anti-Semitism and reconciliation; sample sermons; and more.

It can be helpful for congregational rabbis to have resources that stimulate their thinking as they prepare their programming materials and sermons,” says Rabbi Noam Marans, American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations, who crafted two of the booklets’ prayers and other writings. “Given the enormity of this event—truly unprecedented in its horrific nature in American Jewish history—it’s important to provide as much assistance as rabbis and other prepare for the first anniversary.”

Part of that anniversary commemoration includes #ShowUpforShabbat, an AJC initiative to bring the Jewish community and others together in solidarity. The first such program was held just a week after the Pittsburgh massacre, and brought together Jews and people of other faiths to stand up to hatred and anti-Semitism. This year, hundreds of synagogues are opening their services once again and encouraging people to come in and reinforce their objection to hate in all its forms.

“The American Jewish community is still processing this event and will be for decades to come,” says Marans. “What I do know is that Jewish people and fellow travelers of all faiths and no faiths are going to need to be together in solidarity in the coming days.”

All of this activity comes just days after the AJC released a report showing that 88% of Jews believe anti-Semitism is a problem.

“When 11 Jews are murdered in prayers, followed six months later by one Jew being murdered [Chabad of Poway, California] and others not because a gun jammed, these are earth-shattering events that cannot be ignored. The survey reflects the insecurity that Jews are feeling, and we are still in the middle of this,” Marans says, calling out a series of violent attacks in Brooklyn, New York, recently on people who are visibly Jewish.

The booklet also contains statistics on anti-Semitic incidents and a political call to action. It asks people to reach out to their congressional representatives and pass pending legislation to combat hate, specifically the National Opposition to Hate, Assaults and Threats to Equality Act, which AJC helped draft and was introduced by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) earlier this year in the U.S. House of Representatives. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

However, individuals mark this solemn anniversary, Marans says what’s most important to remember are the 11 shul-goers who were killed, as well as their loved ones and the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, emphasizing “that must be uppermost in our minds.”

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