Monday, October 29, 2018

We are broken, but not unfixable

Photo credit: Wikipedia

You've probably heard the story or seen the meme about how broken vessels in Japan are repaired using gold (kintsukuroi). Often, they are more beautiful after they've been fixed than they were before they were broken. 

Pittsburgh needs some kintsukuroi right now. Evil has come into our city and, for now, we are broken. We are brokenhearted. 

This past Saturday, Shabbat, our shalom was shattered by a lone gunman, a vessel of evil perpetrating a Satanic deed. Satanic? Yes, that's what I believe. I refuse to call this anything but. 

In a season when we are reminded of death and evil in the lawn displays and in nearly every store, death and evil became all too real for the Squirrel Hill community in Pittsburgh. Squirrel Hill, my former home, and a neighborhood where many of my friends and acquaintances live, shop, and worship.

I spent Saturday in front of the television. How could I not? First there were reports of 8 deaths then 11. Eleven. Were there people I knew among the dead? I couldn't help wondering/praying/worrying. Although I heard from some, for the most part, I, like countless others, had to wait for the names to be announced on Sunday morning, just a few short hours after the last of the bodies were carried out of the Tree of Life Synagogue

And then, there it was. The list of names, none of which I was familiar with, but all of which affected so, so many. I was relieved, yet burdened with grief for people I did not know as well as those I knew who were undoubtedly affected by this news. People who had worshiped beside those who were now deceased. 

One of my students in the Osher program at Carnegie Mellon University responded to my email on Saturday with this short reply:

Dear Hana:

Thanks for your concern. Our synagogue is affected. Still don't know how many of the dead and wounded are ours.
Stan and I are Ok. I was heading to shul expecting a normal Shabbat, but friends told me police had surrounded the building where we meet. Don't know yet how many of our congregants are dead and wounded...I fear the worst....


Don't know "how many of our congregants are dead and wounded..." Can you imagine?

Image by Tim Hindes
Yes, we are broken, but we're not unfixable. As always, Pittsburgh's resilience will shine through. We will never be the same, especially the Jewish community here, but we will take the gold dust and, like the Japanese who practice kintsukuroi, we will celebrate our unique history, acknowledging the breaks and fractures, and we will emerge more beautiful and stronger than ever. After all, we're Pittsburgh. We're united in this senseless tragedy, and we'll be united in our healing.

Join me in praying for those most devastated by the shootings at the synagogue -- the families of the victims, the injured, the first responders, the children (oh Lord, bless the children), those who will be haunted by nightmares, and for the Squirrel Hill community at large. It was Mr. Rogers' neighborhood, so I'll end with 2 quotes from him:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."


We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say "It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem." Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider these people my heroes.

Someday, it will once again be a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Until then, let's not only look for the helpers... let's be the helpers.

Sharing my heart,

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