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Community Response and Support from Pittsburgh Tragedy
Dear CJDS Community,
This week has been a very intense and emotional week. It began with the tragic news from Pittsburgh about the attack on the innocent members of the Tree of Life Synagogue, which led into gathering all of the information, craft our responses, both in communications and programming, and actually process the disturbing news ourselves. The mood last Motzei Shabbat and Sunday felt very disheartening and sad, and it felt very much like a repetition of a history we hoped was not to be repeated. However, I am here to convey to you today that the way our country and our communities responded locally and all over the country was truly uplifting. I, myself, attended four gatherings this week. What stood out to me was the support of the non-Jewish community. They not only demonstrated their caring and support of us but also expressed their outrage toward the rhetoric which is fanning the flames of these types of violent events.
I attended a vigil on Tuesday night in our CJDS neighborhood at Horner Park chaired by Aliza Becker. It was attended by almost an entirely non-Jewish group of neighbors in a grassroots neighborhood response. Through the wonder of Facebook, they announced a spur of the moment gathering and received 500 likes and over 100 people attended from our surrounding neighbors. They asked me to say a few words representing CJDS, and I can’t express to you the feeling I felt that night in the truly loving embrace of our neighbors. Special thanks to Alderman Deb Mell and her staff who jumped in to help the neighbors jump all the hurdles to make it possible to hold the event on such short notice.
Yesterday, we took our middle school students to the JUF Interfaith Gathering downtown. I can’t even begin to describe to you the feeling when our students walked in and saw over 1,500 people gathered to mourn the loss of these precious souls. The lessons learned in this field trip could not have been read in a book or in an online article. You had to experience it. Together as a Jewish community and all of its diversity, we stood with our Christian, Muslim, and citizens who do not identify in a religious community. The power of community standing up for good was palpable.
Lastly, today may have been the most emotional moment of all. The Principal of DePaul College Prep, Dr. Megan Stanton-Anderson called me this week to express her condolences and concern and asked if there was any way her students could express their feelings to our students. And so today, the Student Council members of DePaul College Prep joined our students in Grades 3-8 at the end of Kabbalat Shabbat for a brief program that placed some closure on our week. In addition to the students from DePaul, CJDS Alumnae Class of 2018, Ani Alpert, Gabi DeKoven, and Shira Newberger joined us today and helped us light our yahrzeit candle in memory of the Pittsburgh members. All I can tell you is that when all of the students were reading No Man is an Island in a responsive reading, the hope that filled our Beit Midrash almost brought me to tears. The message of hope literally rose out of the ashes. As we go into Shabbat, I encourage you to take this message of hope and hold on to it, I know I will.