Sunday, May 5

Religion lifted Pittsburgh Jews in lengthy watch for bloodbath trial

Three Jewish congregations, resolute of their defiance of the hatred that attempted to destroy them, are nonetheless ready for justice.

But united of their horror and grief, they haven’t been standing nonetheless because the prison case for the bloodbath that modified all the pieces has crawled via the federal courtroom system.

Four and a half years in the past, a gunman invaded the Tree of Life synagogue on a Sabbath morning and killed 11 worshippers from the three congregations that shared the constructing — Dor Hadash, New Light and Tree of Life. The taking pictures, within the Squirrel Hill neighborhood on the coronary heart of Jewish Pittsburgh, was the deadliest antisemitic assault in U.S. historical past.

On Monday, jury choice is scheduled to start within the long-delayed trial of the suspect, accused of dozens of fees together with hate crimes leading to dying.

The three congregations are cautious of what’s to return. Some members could also be referred to as to testify, and so they’re bracing for graphic proof and testimony that would revive the traumas of the Oct. 27, 2018, assault — usually referred to round right here as merely 10/27.

The pressure may be felt in non-public conversations and encounters — the griefs, the anxieties, the sentiments of being in a media fishbowl.

But every in their very own methods, members are discovering renewed objective in honoring these misplaced within the assault, within the daring observe of their religion, in activism on points like gun violence and immigration, in taking a stand towards antisemitism and different types of bigotry.

“We don’t want to be silenced as Jews,” stated Rich Weinberg, chair of the social motion committee for Dor Hadash. “We want to be active as Jews with an understanding of Jewish values. … We are going to still be here. We will not be intimidated.”

That was evident even in refined particulars of a Passover service held earlier this month in New Light’s chapel, joined by some members of Dor Hadash.

Some providing Yizkor, or remembrance, prayers have been doing so in honor of slain family members. One prayer was learn in reminiscence of the “Kedoshim of Pittsburgh, murdered al kiddush Hashem” — holy martyrs, killed whereas sanctifying God’s identify. The prayer, modeled on prayers for Jewish martyrs of medieval Europe, has been woven into the ritual cloth of Jewish Pittsburgh.

One of these main Passover prayers was Carol Black, who survived the assault that claimed the lifetime of her brother, Richard Gottfried, and two different New Light members, Melvin Wax and Daniel Stein. They had led a lot of New Light’s ritual worship.

“Rich and Dan and Mel were our religious heart,” stated Stephen Cohen, co-president of New Light. “And we had some very big shoes to fill.”

Members equivalent to Black and Bruce Hyde have stepped into them. Hyde stated when he as soon as learn a passage that had been learn by Stein, he felt his presence: “He was up there with me.”

Cohen stated the congregation had three priorities after the assault: to memorialize these misplaced, to proceed their ritual life and to additional non secular schooling. New Light, like Tree of Life, is a part of the reasonable Conservative denomination of Judaism.

The congregation devoted a monument honoring its three martyrs — formed with photographs of Torah scrolls and prayer shawls — at its cemetery, the place it additionally created a chapel adorned with stained glass home windows and different mementos honoring the victims.

New Light Co-President Barbara Caplan stated her dream for the congregation is “that we have many more years of Friday night services, Saturday morning services, holidays together, where we just go on being the family that we are.”

Cohen stated the congregation has been overwhelmed by assist from Christian, Sikh and different communities and needed to construct on these relationships. It has held Bible research with native Black church buildings, and members visited the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, drawing solace from a congregation that misplaced 9 members to a racist gunman in 2015. “I’ve never been part of a group hug of a hundred people,” Cohen recalled.

All three of the modest-sized congregations have been assembly in close by synagogues because the assault closed the Tree of Life constructing.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers had been main Tree of Life Congregation for simply over a yr when he survived 10/27. He carries the scarred recollections of the gunshots that killed seven members: Joyce Fienberg, Rose Mallinger, Cecil and David Rosenthal, Bernice and Sylvan Simon and Irving Younger. Andrea Wedner, Mallinger’s daughter, was wounded within the assault.

Myers continues to talk forcefully towards the bigotry behind it.

His mission is “primarily to help my congregation community heal,” Myers stated. “But beyond it is to speak up, to be a voice, to say, ‘No, this isn’t okay. It’s not acceptable. It never was. And it can never be.’”

He’d prefer to suppose the trial will expose the hazards of rising bigotry, however “it takes a concerted effort to be able to … walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” he stated. But it impacts greater than Jews. ”Someone who’s an antisemite is probably additionally the possessor of a protracted laundry record of private grievances and different teams that that individual doesn’t like.”

Members are every recovering in their very own methods, congregation president Alan Hausman stated.

Each week when he makes bulletins, Hausman stated he contains this one: “It’s OK not to be OK, and we will get through this together.”

On Sunday, the day earlier than jury choice, the Tree of Life Congregation is having a closure ceremony for its historic constructing. The congregation and a associate group plan a serious overhaul of the positioning, which can mix worship house with a memorial and antisemitism schooling, together with concerning the Holocaust.

“We’re not really leaving, we will be back,” stated Hausman.

“Hopefully we’ll be once again a happy, grounded, 160-year-old congregation,” added member Audrey Glickman, a survivor. “Back to being a solid group of people who come together regularly and do our thing.”

Dor Hadash, based 60 years in the past, is Pittsburgh’s solely congregation within the progressive Reconstructionist motion of Judaism. Many members are drawn to its interlocking focuses on worship, examine and social activism.

It was that activism that seems to have drawn the taking pictures suspect — who fulminated on-line towards HIAS, a Jewish refugee resettlement company — to the tackle the place Dor Hadash met. The congregation was listed on HIAS’ web site as a participant in a National Refugee Shabbat, which wove concern for migrants into Sabbath worship.

On 10/27, members Jerry Rabinowitz and Dan Leger have been gathering for a Torah examine after they heard the gunshots and ran to assist. Rabinowitz was killed, and Leger critically wounded.

But the assault has solely emboldened Dor Hadash members.

They have been quickly organizing what grew to become a separate group, Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence, advocating for gun security laws. And they redoubled their assist for immigrants, refugees and their helpers equivalent to HIAS. The congregation has sponsored a refugee household initially from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And they’ve taken a robust stand towards rising antisemitism and white supremacy.

“I think advocacy has been a huge part of our healing,” stated Dana Kellerman, communications chair for Dor Hadash. Advocacy “isn’t just about making myself feel better,” she added. “It is about trying to move the needle so that this doesn’t happen to somebody else.”

The congregation has been rising because the assault, stated its president, Jo Recht. The traditionally lay-led congregation has employed its first employees rabbi, Amy Bardack. Her formal set up is that this Sunday — a date that wasn’t particularly chosen prematurely of the trial however that gives a welcome event of celebration.

“There are a lot of people who are seeking some way to help so that the world is a more compassionate place,” Recht stated.

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