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This Weekend Marks One Year After Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack

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This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the shooting at the tree of life car Gatien in Pittsburgh it's also the second annual show up for Chabad on the weekend right after the shooting we at J. C. encouraged Jews and our allies around the world to go to synagogue and show up for shut it became the largest demonstration of solidarity with the Jewish people in world history this year as we mark the tracks nick anniversary we hope you'll show up for Chabad again on this weekend October Twenty Fifth and twenty sixth head to AJC dot org slash show up for Chabad to learn more Manja who did you chat with this week Avi Mayor the Managing Director of Global Communications for AJC who spearheaded an unprecedented survey of American Jewish you too about anti-semitism how about you for my interview I really zoomed in on Pittsburgh and spoke with Jeff Finkelstein the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation in Pittsburgh so let's dive right in and hear those conversations now Sunday October twenty seventh will mark exactly one year since the deadly shooting at Pittsburgh is tree of Life Congregation we spoke with Jeff Finkelstein President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to get a sense of how Pittsburgh is doing one year out jeff thank you so much for joining us thanks for asking me to do this now we're almost exactly one year out from the attack that Jews US All across America felt in our own way but the victims were in Pittsburgh so I should start by asking how is the Jewish community in Pittsburgh doing so I think you're actually starting with the right question the answer's complicated and complex because when we talk about the community were all victims and there are different levels of victims obviously the families who lost loved ones the people who were injured those who are in the synagogue but escaped and saw the shooter people in the parking lot the Jewish community of Squirrel Hill the general community of Scroll Hill the Jewish community of Greater Pittsburgh Etcetera and so there were all these rungs and I think if you ask representatives of each of them on different days you'll get a different an answer So the real answer in one word is it depends you just reminded me of the poem that you might be familiar with called the order of the bomb by you who to buy it's a famous poem by famous Israeli poet and it's too long to read into the record here maybe we'll link to it in the notes but in it he basically talks about the concentric circles of you know he's speaking of course about a bombing in Israel but he says the diameter of the bomb mhm was thirty centimeters but the range of the people who had hit and the people who were affected by that and the people who cared about that further and further ends by saying and I won't even mention the Howl of orphans that reaches up to the throne of God and beyond making a circle with no end and no god which is perhaps deeper than either is intended to go there but you're certainly right to point out that the attack took place in one location but it was felt everywhere it definitely has ripple effects by the way e yes I was my professor at the Hebrew University when I was there for my junior year and I actually don't remember studying that home but I'm sure I did at one point uh now going to have to go back and re read it you know and I can speak personally there were days where I feel more than others as we approach the one year marker and I'm looking at some of the drafts of videos that are going to be used I ended up in tears and and other your time's I'm fine when the attack happened in Powei that retraumatize people in the community including people like may so I just think they're good days is there a bad days and I'll end this part just by saying that one of the blessings in my professional work has been getting to know especially the victims families who were closest to the incident they are truly remarkable wonderful strong inspiring people that's that's that's beautiful a year ago so when this happened Pittsburgh became a mechanism for antisemitism in America right it became a kind of shorthand when many people today say Pittsburgh they don't mean the city on the allegheny river they mean the place where an anti Semite attacked a synagogue and that for you it's home right it's where you raised your kids it's where you work and perhaps not only where you go to work but it's the community that you really help to Lee it has it been jarring disconnect between the city people talk about in the one that you live in it's actually interesting I just I wrote a piece and I haven't done anything with it yet it on this topic specifically because I really might even be anger that I feel when people referred do what happened here as Pittsburgh they say we have to remember Pittsburgh Yeah and when I what I want them to know about Pittsburgh is that this is an incredible unique Jewish community this is a place that's growing with close to fifty thousand Jews today that's getting younger with millennials going into our city because of the increase in eds and meds higher education medical work and high tech in general and it is is and I always state this without actually ever researching it but it never stops me it is the last major urban center Jewish community in North America outside of New York every other Jewish comed- that I know of the major community has moved out of the city itself we are still saying entered in the city of Pittsburgh with the diversity of the Jewish community there it is an incredible place and that's when it comes to the Jewish communities what Pittsburgh it should mean and when it comes to being just a city this is the city that built America it had the third most fortune five hundred companies in America after New York and Chicago for a number of years it literally built America with its steel and those are the things that people need to remember about Pittsburgh this week AJC released the findings of a new survey of American Jews feelings about antisemitism and in the survey we found that a quarter of American Jews say that they avoid certain aces events or situation out of concern for their safety as Jews forty-seven percent report that Jewish institutions with which they are affiliated have been targeted by antisemitic threats graffiti or attacks and more than half of American Jews report having police and or private guards posted outside of their institutions. What has the hardening of Jewish communal spaces look like in Pittsburgh so just to take it back prior talks over twenty seventh year and a half before we hired a Jewish community security director at the Federation to start looking at that and his work save lives on Tober Twenty-seventh we we know that from people who survived in twenty four hours after the shooting took place we convened all of our Jewish institutions for briefing with our security director FBI police local politicians and talked about what was going on in the community and we at the federation made the Vision we hired armed guards throughout the Jewish community for the next four weeks we paid for it and the whole idea was to build resilience we didn't want people so scared of coming into our Jewish institutions forty eight hours after the shooting the largest Jewish preschool which is located at JC and Squirrel Hill all but one family showed up that's what we were aiming for and yes facilities have been physically hardened and there are addition thousands of new personnel for security at many of them as well someone asked me about this earlier today and you know has it has on an impact on people my own synagogue I was just there for Simpler Toronto Media Sarit I know the armed guard the people who come a lot we know oh that guard he is not Jewish he wishes you Chabad Shalom on Chabad and hugs them on the holiday it's not jarring it's comforting actually for most people I think and he's almost a member of the community and it's really it's been beautiful I think that's the way a lot of the institutions have tried to deal with the addition of security personnel now the tree of life congregation where the shooting took place last year issued a statement just last week too it's it's New Vision for the synagogue building a new mission for that institution can you tell us more about that before I answer the question I wanted just makes are we make one point that it was the tree of life building where the attack took place and that building house three congregation right tree of life New Light Endorse Hadasha and I I know you know that Steffi but I wanna make sure your listeners know that it's really important that people realize that so they've been talking about this for several months now with different parties that might be interested in co locating and collaborating on the site there's just been one initial meeting with the group I know that because we at the federation help convene that first meeting and there are a lot of details to be worked out think the congregation tree of life itself the owner of the building has been very public especially Rabbi Myers and there president that they are committed to re opening on that site in some way what it looks like exactly I think we'll take some time but the idea that Jewish life will be can you on that corner in Squirrel Hill I think is definitely is key to their thinking I just WanNa close by asking You Jeff how are you going to be spending the day I'm sure you're going to be on call and and working throughout the what will you be doing to commemorate next week so the day has been planned there's been a group that's been meeting from about the third week after the shooting they've been meeting every Thursday and that group is convened by actually part of the federal government with representatives of the three impacted congregations it's the Jewish Federation are Jewish community center or Jewish family and community service this is another local nonprofit called the Center for victims and a couple of official representatives of the victims families themselves and they have put together the framework of what will be happening that day my federation team is the one that's actually done the heavy lifting to make it all happen and that's what I'll be participating in starting at eleven am we have volunteer activities we have slots for slightly over eight hundred people as of today we're well over seven hundred are already filled in the ideas that we're going to make the world a better place in the name of those lives we lost very traditional Jewish way to do it at two o'clock the next traditional Jewish way to remember those who have lost will be tower study and I I think we're approaching four hundred people now registered for that with lots of different teachers representing all the different streams of Judaism which is I think the way we function in Pittsburgh working together and then at five o'clock will be a large community gathering to be run about an hour or so and most of that again centered around those we lost everything that's happening that day is victim centered and trauma informed because it's the local incident in Pittsburgh whereas the rest of the country that are doing things for them it's not their neighborhood per se and so that's how I'll be spent in my day is going to each of these things and being with our community well jeff our thoughts will be with you as you do that thank you so much for joining us on people at the todd thanks EFI

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