The New Normal: Acts of Beauty and Unity

On Friday night, after dinner, I did the dishes.

Every Friday, my job is to wash the dishes after our family Shabbat dinner. I enjoy doing it because my wife does the bulk of the work in our home. This one is my responsibility.

After dinner this past Friday, my wife offered to do the dishes. She knew what a long week it has been for all of us who work at the Federation and she just wanted to help. For a minute, I was going to defer to her, but I decided I had to wash the dishes. I had to start getting life back to normal.

These past two weeks have not been normal. Some of this abnormal was terrible.

It wasn’t normal for me to get a call from Meryl Ainsman, our Board Chair, on Shabbat to tell me she had heard there as a shooting at the building where Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, New Light and Dor Hadash congregations worshipped.

It wasn’t normal for me to have to call our Federation’s Jewish Community Security Director to let him know what was happening.

It wasn’t normal for me to be standing on the corner of Northumberland and Shady with the Governor, County Executive, Mayor, State Representative and City Council representative waiting to hear news.

It wasn’t normal for me to hear that the anti-Semitic shooter had killed 11 Jews.

It wasn’t normal for me to be coordinating communication with the local head of the FBI, Police and other City leadership.

It wasn’t normal for me to call our staff on a Shabbat to help out.

It wasn’t normal to plan a community gathering in less than 24 hours.

At the same time, some of this abnormal filled me with hope:

At one of the nine funerals I attended, a Reform, Conservative and Chabad rabbi shared the bima.

At a Shabbat dinner, the Anti-Defamation League, Friendship Circle and Repair the World joined several organizations with major funding from the Jewish Federation—Moishe House, One Table and the Federation’s Volunteer Center and Shalom Pittsburgh—to bring together over 350 young people in solidarity.

The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh stood shoulder to shoulder with us and raised significant money for the Federation’s Our Victims of Terror Fund.

Every major religious group in Pittsburgh’s leadership stood on a stage together at Soldiers and Sailors Hall united against anti-Semitism.

Synagogues opened their doors to the three congregations left temporarily without a home.

Jewish Federation staff took their own initiative to put up tents quickly to cover up the makeshift memorial near the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha building from the rain.

All the major youth groups in Pittsburgh (BBYO, USY, NFTY, NCSY and YJ) hosted a unified teen havdallah on Saturday night.

The Jewish Federations of North America stepped in to do everything and anything to assist us. Several Jewish Federations from the across the U.S. and Canada stepped up to provide marketing support and back office data management.

Nearly 5,000 people visited our Jewish Federation website in two days to give to the “Our Victims of Terror Fund.”

Our national and international Jewish community came together for Solidarity Shabbat, bringing out probably hundreds of thousands of Jews and non-Jews in solidarity with the Pittsburgh Jewish community.

Yes, there was so much that wasn’t normal since October 27th. And we should never have to experience those things ever again. But there were also acts of beauty and unity that resulted from our collective sorrow. Now, our responsibility is to normalize these wonderful acts and make them part of how we work as a community and society.

On Friday night, after dinner, I did the dishes. I can’t wait to do them again tonight.

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