Five years ago, our Jewish community was shaken to its core. An antisemitic gunman murdered eleven members of our Pittsburgh Jewish community. Two others were shot. Our Pittsburgh Jewish community and region was forever changed.
Unfortunately, today, our community has to hold the memory of our eleven murdered community members and embrace their families AND focus on the war in Israel at the same time. It felt appropriate to ask Kim Salzman, our Federation Director of Israel and Overseas, to write today’s message. Kim lives in our Partnership2Gether community of Misgav.
At the end of Kim’s message, please read the names of our eleven community members. May their names and their memories be forever as a blessing to their families and to all of us.
Words can’t begin to describe how all of us feel in the past three weeks. Devastated. Despair. Angry. Shocked. Horrified. Depressed. Scared. Exhausted. Anxious. We are all so overwhelmed with all these feelings that it’s hard to disconnect from any one of them to appreciate the moments of pure good, unity, and mutual responsibility that are on full display in Israel ever since the blackest of Shabbats on October 7. But in the rare moments when we manage to crawl out of the darkness, there is so much light to see.
Israelis are opening their homes to evacuees from the north and the south, inviting in perfect strangers as if they are their family – because at the end of the day, we are all one family. Israelis are adopting and fostering dogs who survived on October 7, their owners murdered or missing or staying in a hotel where pets aren’t welcome. Israelis are cooking meals – for the evacuees, for the soldiers, for women caring for their children while their husbands are in reserve duty. Israelis are lending a hand to pick fruits and vegetables from fields in the north and the south, anything to help the farmers who are left to fend for themselves as many of their pickers returned to their countries of origin. Israelis who were traveling around the world on October 7 are flying back to Israel to serve in the IDF. Jewish American doctors, including local Pittsburgh doctors, are leaving behind their busy schedules and flying to Israel to bring their much-needed skills to Israeli hospitals, helping to save lives. Jews around the world are postering images of the 224 Israelis held captive in Gaza, lest the world forget their horrific plight. And Jews around the world are generously donating unprecedented dollars to help meet the tremendous needs in the field.
Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora alike have enlisted their hearts and minds in defending the Jewish state in one of our greatest hours of need. Hamas dealt us a horrible blow, but they had no idea who they were dealing with – they have no idea how strong the Jewish people are, they have no idea how we unite in times of crisis, and they have no idea how undefeatable we are when we come together as a people. Hamas is an ideology of death and hate, but we – the Jewish people – are an ideology of life and love. And loves always triumphs over hate.
So now is the time to enlist to the global effort of defending the Jewish nation and its right to defend itself. Now is the time to do whatever YOU can do to help. For some, it may be writing to your elected officials, urging them to support Israel and to bring home the hostages held in captivity. For others, it may be contributing to the Federation’s Israel emergency relief campaign, funds that will help victims of terror, provide trauma relief, reinforce hospitals throughout the country, help the most vulnerable, and more. For others, it may mean coming to Israel to volunteer – as a doctor, a soldier or a civilian. For others, it may mean actively sharing on social media in support of Israel’s right to defend itself. For others, it may be holding hasbara* gatherings with family and friends, whether over zoom or in person. Regardless of what it is, every person who understands that this is a war against an evil ideology that must be defeated needs to enlist to the effort. This is a call for action. Enlist your hearts and minds to the effort to defend the right and obligation of the one Jewish nation in the world to defend itself from terrorism. We will get through this, but we can only succeed if we do it together. Now is the time to enlist. The clock is ticking…
May this be a Shabbat that ushers in peace to Israel and all the Jewish people. May this be a Shabbat that brings our hostages home. May this be a Shabbat where we start to feel a glimmer of hope amidst all the despair.
*Hasbara (Hebrew: הַסְבָּרָה) has no direct English translation, but roughly means “explaining”.