Being Present in a Moment of History

What a privilege to travel to Harrisburg and to participate in an historic joint session of the House and Senate, with the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Auditor General, to commemorate what happened in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Building on October 27th. I mention the travel and the participate aspects explicitly and deliberately.

Our Jewish Federation’s Community Relations Council (CRC) invited all the family members of those who were killed and those who were injured along with the leadership of the three congregations to join us on a Federation arranged bus to and from Harrisburg. We also invited leadership from JFCS and the JCC to join our own Federation volunteer leaders for the long day’s journey.

The bus trip there and the time together with the families of the victims was truly an honor. They are incredibly strong and inspiring and I love every minute I get to be with them.

The actual session in the House was so memorable. All the Commonwealth’s leadership was in the room. They heard Rabbi Jonathan Perlman from New Light Congregation open the session with an invocation and Rabbi Cheryl Klein from Dor Hadash closed with a benediction. Both Representative Dan Frankel and Senator Jay Costa addressed all of us, speaking emotionally from deep in their hearts about what happened in their neighborhood to their neighbors. I encourage you to watch the entire ceremony below. I want to thank our political leadership along with our CRC and the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition (funded by Federations in PA) for their help and support in making the day a reality.

In the same vein, as we continue to help our community in the process of healing, the Federation along with the Jewish Agency for Israel provided funding to bring the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) to Pittsburgh this entire week training both our Jewish communal professionals and so many others about how to deal with the kind of trauma facing our community. I joined part of this morning’s session where I sat with a synagogue executive director, CEO’s and other leaders of Jewish agencies, teachers from CDS, members of our Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and others as the ITC helped us not only deal with our own trauma but also to realize how we can better help others.

Next week begins the holiday of Passover. On Friday night, Jews around the world will gather around their Seder tables retelling our age old story of survival. A colleague and friend of our Pittsburgh Jewish community, Dr. Erica Brown, wrote a short but beautiful piece that can be included in your Seder. It is linked below case you would like to use it.

Shabbat Shalom and wishing you and your families a joyous and joyful Passover.


A Passover Prayer Against Anti-Semitism by Dr. Erica Brown

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