A Folder for Pittsburgh

Less than a month after the horrific attack in Pittsburgh, it is the week of Thanksgiving, and my usual feelings of joyous anticipation are tempered by a heavy heart.

Accustomed to creating folders to contain program budgets, resumes, resource materials, housing options, employment models, social and recreational programs, etc., it was unnerving to create the most recent one -- Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a folder. 

As many of you experienced three weekends ago, I received emails from multiple media sources containing articles and op-eds. Wanting to hold on to anything that might help make sense of what had taken place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, I did what I do, I created a folder. It's not a perfect system, filing away emails that range from the mundane to the strategic into folders, but it works (mostly) for me.  

And now, less than a month after the horrific attack in Pittsburgh, it is the week of Thanksgiving, and my usual feelings of joyous anticipation are tempered by a heavy heart. I worry that by offering praise, we ignore the suffering and pain that exists in our community, pain that comes from so many sources, growing incidents of anti-Semitism in our country and in Jewish communities around the world, devastating fires in California and escalating missile activity in Israel, increased polarization that defines our national dialogue, not to mention the day-to-day struggles of young adults with disabilities trying to find their way in a world that isn't quite ready for them.  How do I/we offer praise and at the same time acknowledge that all isn't at all right with our world? 

We turn to Pittsburgh and draw upon the Talmudic phrase shared by Bari Weiss in her New York Times op-ed piece following the attacks, kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh --all of Israel is responsible for one another . Weiss reflects that for Jews in Squirrel Hill "… that is not a lovely theory but a lived reality." 

Pittsburgh teaches us that the best and the worst co-exist and we just have to accept that reality. Cecil and David Rosenthal, and the community that embraced them, were and are part of the same world that is fighting and on fire. Try as we might, it is impossible to separate these worlds, to put them in folders, and to allow ourselves only one response. Events in Pittsburgh, and the coming holiday require us to anguish over what is broken and lost, and to rejoice in what is possible and good. 

I am angry that gun violence has not been meaningfully addressed and I am inspired by the outpouring of love that came from the interfaith community in response to Pittsburgh. I am scared about what the future holds for Israel and for our country, and I am thankful for the mutual love and respect that is evident among people of different backgrounds in my orbit. I am frustrated that people with disabilities who live in Illinois are more likely to live in institutions than those who live in other states and I am hopeful that our advocacy work will result in community-based opportunities for all who seek them.  

Most of all I feel blessed to be part of this amazing community. My journey to understand and grapple with events in Pittsburgh was enriched by reflections of Encompass community members, including Dr. Shana Erenberg, executive director of Libenu, and by important pieces that so many of you shared, most notably this one, which challenges us to go beyond inclusion, and to strive for belonging.



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