On October 27, a gunman opened fire in the Tree of Life synagogue of Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. After shouting an anti-semitic exclamation, a 46-year-old attacker proceeded to kill 11 people and injure six. In the wake of this massacre, the CCHS Jewish Student Union (JSU) decided to express their will to help the community heal in the form of writing.
The JSU is a program from NCSY that aims to strengthen the identity of Jewish students and to educate them further on Judaism by recognizing their heritage. JSU sponsor Helise Gailboord and co-presidents Leon Sardes and Madison Mutzman wanted to voice their support to the victims of the shooting as soon as possible. So, on Monday, November 5, they came together to give back to the Squirrel Hill community one word at a time.
They were visited by Rabbi Moshe Freilich, who coincidentally had the same idea and even brought pre-made cards for the club of 60 plus members. Each of the students then began to write their own cards, for they were being sent the next day by Rabbi Freilich. Members expressed their condolences to members of the Squirrel Hill congregation, along with the reassurance that the JSU chapter at CCHS will stand with them.
“[The impact I want] our cards to make on their community is that we are a united front– a united front that is there when the community needs a shoulder to cry on,” Mutzman said. “I hope that our cards have shed a glimmer of hope and support in light of the incident and that we as a highly Jewish-populated community in Cooper City support them.”
The JSU will continue to aid and support the Squirrel Hill community in any way that they can as they plan their own vigils and services. The CCHS JSU has not been the only organization in the Cooper City Jewish community to pay their respects. The David Posnack Jewish Community Center (JCC) held a United Community Vigil, which included co-president Sardes, on November 1 to honor those who were lost in the attack.
“In our heritage, we’re taught Tikkun Olam, which is to make the world a better place and to leave things on this earth that make things better, which I believe is every religion’s goal,” JSU sponsor Gailboord said. “So I believe every religion should be allowed to live in peace and carry on their traditions without fear of being hurt or killed.”
Tikkun Olam is often translated to repair. This is due to the Jewish teaching that the creator of the world left room for us to improve it and bring it closer to a harmonious state. The JSU is continuing to look into memorial services and monetary fundraisers in order to further support the Tree of Life congregation. Surely, this message of hope will be held in the hearts of many as this religious community continues to heal.
Photo courtesy of One Little Project