Grief is a process. Our communities’ grief over the 11 victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue massacre is a process, as well. In dealing with our collective heartache, it can be helpful to turn to Jewish tradition, which over the centuries has built mourning rituals to help bring people together in these times of intense need.
Our communities’ first reaction after the killing on October 27th was to gather, in order to mourn and find strength — much like people do for a shiva. “Everyone felt a deep-seated need simply to be together,” says Rabbi Josh Waxman, president of the Jewish Federation-supported Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia. “It is important to be reminded that we are a part of something larger than ourselves, while also finding a way of saying ‘We are not going to be intimidated as a community.’”
That’s why, following the custom of many Jewish communities, Rabbi Waxman plans to mark the conclusion of the traditional 30-day mourning period shloshim with an evening that will both bring us together and offer some solace. Traditionally, families mark the end of shloshim (“thirty”) by gathering to share support and dedicate a teaching to the person who died. The Board of Rabbis’ Evening of Learning in Remembrance of the Victims of Pittsburgh will feature teachings that include traditional textual learning, reflections from people with connections to Squirrel Hill, as well as reflections on our own communities from Greater Philadelphia residents.
For centuries, ending shloshim with a learning session has helped Jews honor the memory of the deceased, while also helping to lift our own souls. “There can be a tendency to isolate when we are scared or hear something painful, but that’s not really the Jewish way,” says Rabbi Waxman. “When we come together, we draw strength and connection from one another. We raise each other up. It’s the first step toward healing.”
Join the Board of Rabbis and your Greater Philadelphia communities on Monday, November 26th, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., for the Evening of Learning in Remembrance of the Victims of Pittsburgh, held at the National Museum of American Jewish History. Admission is free, but donations to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Fund for Victims of Terror are encouraged. To register, click here.