By Kayla Steinberg
“Trauma seeks to disconnect us,” said Maggie Feinstein, director of the 10.27 Healing Partnership. “The best way to mitigate the impact of trauma is to find connection.”
Now, almost two years after the shooting on Oct. 27, 2018, community organizations are working to offer that connection through the second-year commemoration.
The assortment of events is headlined by a virtual commemorative gathering on Oct. 27, a day of community service on Oct. 25, and Torah study on the secular date of the shooting (Oct. 27) as well as on the Hebrew yahrzeit (Nov. 4 and 5).
The 10.27 Healing Partnership’s commemoration working group is a collaborative effort of victims’ families, survivors, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Repair the World Pittsburgh and the three congregations housed in the Tree of Life building. Survivors Carol Black, who lost her brother, Dr. Richard Gottfried, in the shooting, and Andrea Wedner, who lost her mother, Rose Mallinger, co-chaired the group.
The Oct. 25 community service, organized by Repair the World Pittsburgh, includes 21 service opportunities such as cemetery clean-up, blood donation and food distribution.
“The synagogue shooting was very traumatic for the community,” said Julie Mallis, city director of Repair the World Pittsburgh. “This service day is an opportunity for people to have something to look forward to where they can come together as a community and just do something that is going to make you feel good … It’s just basically a physical way of working through and processing grief and trauma.”
The Torah study, spearheaded by the Federation, offers another outlet.
“The idea is that it would give comfort to people, that it would elevate the souls of the deceased by studying our sacred texts,” said Rabbi Amy Bardack, director of Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
The study, which requires pre-registration to get the Zoom information, has six time slots with a choice of two scholars at each. Topics include repairing the soul and the world, resilience and accompanying others through loss.
The virtual commemorative gathering, planned by the 10.27 Healing Partnership, will reflect on the lives lost with survivors, families of the deceased, first responders and the three congregations at the Tree of Life building.
In addition to the three main programs, the commemoration includes healing activities — an effort of Jewish Family and Community Services and the 10.27 Healing Partnership — such as canopy conversations outside of The Children’s Institute and a drop-in Zoom room with yoga, therapy and grieving activities.
There are also events planned by partner organizations like a two-part gathering for young adults: preparing for Shabbat on Oct. 22 and Shabbat dinners on Oct. 23.
“The first event really provides that purpose to give the meaning and the intent of the main event, which is the commemoration of Shabbat, specifically in honor of those who perished on that day,” said Rabbi Henoch Rosenfeld of Chabad Young Professionals. “One is a pregame for the actual game.”
The “actual game” won’t look like last year’s group dinner. Rather, young adults will host their own Shabbat dinners using kits offered by the event’s organizers: Chabad Young Professionals, Moishe House, OneTable, Repair the World and the Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation.
“We have a very important task to make sure that their death was not in vain,” said Rosenfeld. “And the way we do that is by letting their good deeds and their actions live through us. By commemorating that through Jewish values, we really give them an opportunity to continue to make an impact on this world though they’re not here in a physical way.”
Carol Black remembers Gottfried by continuing to do the things they did together. But she also sees value in a commemoration.
“I don’t really need a commemoration to remember,” she said. “But I do want the world to remember. If our commemoration does anything to help keep the lives that we lost alive in our hearts and minds, then that’s a good thing.
“For my part, I just want to honor my brother’s memory.”
Kayla Steinberg is digital content editor of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, an Exponent-affiliated publication where this article first appeared.