Thursday, April 25, 2019
Home News At the start of Shabbat, Pittsburgh begins to heal

At the start of Shabbat, Pittsburgh begins to heal

They just started to dipping towards the horizon. Men and women in the shadow of the imposing concrete facade of Tree of Life.

Here, underneath a stoplight, and amidst the din of traffic, they turned to the east – towards Israel – and started their prayers.

Across the city on friday night, this ritual has been repeated in homes and in synagogues. In addition to the blood-stained sanctuary, a body of people also asked for their help in the morning prayers deaths.

Sam Weinberg, principal of the Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, said "When you went to the funerals, you heard how dedicated they were to Shabbat. Shabbat prayers, and many of them came, some donning yarmulkes in Steelers black-and-gold.

"It's been a shame to have them here," he said.

It's been almost a week since a synagogue in the heart of the historic Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, killing some of the most congregants and shushing the sense of security for Jews worshiping across the country. Shabbat candles, prayed, shared food and attempted to reclaim a sense of peace.

About a mile away, the home of 69-year-old Myriam Gumerman, at eclectic crowd gathered to observe Shabbat. There was her friend Elkhaili Oumallal, a 35-year-old community college student and translator, whom she had as a passenger in his Uber. Oumallal is Muslim and Gumerman Jewish, but both were raised in Morocco.

Then there were her neighbors: Anne Curtis and Tim Clark – who lived in the neighborhood for more than four decades.

For Curtis, the dinner is an extension of the Pittsburgh concept of "nebby," local slang that means "nosy," but also conveys a sense of concern for neighbors. In the days since the shooting, they were calling and texting neighbors to ensure they were safe.

"The core is we take care of each other," Curtis said.

Gumerman started Shabbat by lighting a dozen yr candles, one for each of the victims and one 12th for those who were still in the hospital. The candles are usually lit on the anniversary of the death of loved ones.

Several of those victims were from the New Light congregation, which met at Tree of Life regularly. But this evening, they had to relocate down the street to Beth Shalom for Shabbat services. People crammed into the pews of the massive sanctuary.

"Tonight, I really want to shut my mouth shut," Rabbi Jonathan Perlman told the congregants. "Because there are no words."

Instead, the rabbi invited congregants to come to the front of the chapel to share their favorite memories of the victims.

Melvin Wax, who was his best even for casual services.

Many people laughed as they shared memories of his fondness for telling jokes. He was very well-versed in Hebrew and highly intelligent.

After the testimonies, Perlman said the congregation wants to survive evil.

"We want to continue on, Congregation New Light," he said.

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