Georgetown mourns and honors the community of the Tree of Life Synagogue

Students, staff, faculty and faith leaders gathered in Dahlgren Quad Oct. 29 for an interfaith service to mourn and reflect on Saturday’s tragedy at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA. Rabbi Rachel Gartner and speakers from all faith backgrounds urged the community to recommit to creating a world we all want to live in. Below are excerpts and photos from the service.

crowd assembled in Dahlgren Quad for service

David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59
Richard Gottfried, 65
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Irving Younger, 69
Daniel Stein, 71
Joyce Fienberg, 75
Melvin Wax, 88
Bernice Simon, 84; Sylvan Simon, 86
Rose Mallinger, 97

– Rabbi Benjamin Barer, Jewish Chaplain and Brahmachari Sharan, director for Hindu Life (pictured above) reading the names of the victims of the Synagogue shooting. 

Ronit Zemel addressing the crowd

“In the Amidah, or the Standing Prayer, we praise the God of our ancestors, we say each one of their names– God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, God of Sarah, God of Rebecca, God of Rachel and God of Leah.

For every American synagogue, there are the ancestors, the anchors of the community. The older folks who push out the coffee cart for morning Torah study group, who welcome every newcomer and point them in the direction of the yarmulkes and prayer books, who bring home the tablecloths that get stained and bring them back clean the next week. Those who are always able to calm the nervous B’nai mitzvah student, and soothe a crying baby being named.

The folks who hold up the community through thick and thin. In my synagogue growing up, these were the Geris, and the Morts and Robertas. Any of us who spent time in congregations and communities know these people. These are the giants from the Tree of Life synagogue on whose shoulders we stand. These were the members of the community we lost on Saturday. Those who are always there on time, sitting in their same seats, reciting their Sabbath prayers celebrating the miracle of existence. We pray for them, and their families.”

– Ronit Zemel, Jewish engagement coordinator, Jewish Life (pictured above) 

Paige Harouse addressing the crowd

“I’m from Pittsburgh. To me, Squirrel Hill isn’t another tragedy on a map… I spent much of the weekend trying to reach friends and family as well as fielding calls from them.  Their love is appreciated and overwhelming, but, of many, I must ask more.

Every year on Yom HaShoah, we remember.  But every day of the year, we, as Jews or as allies, must act.  Call out the anti-Semitism of your family, your friends, your ‘groups.’ Don’t talk about the ‘globalists’ or the ‘Zionists’ or the ‘urbanites.’

Learn about Judaism from Jewish literature, not from the Merchant of Venice.  [And don’t] remain silent.  It’s not easy, in fact, it’s hard and frustrating and difficult, but it needs to happen.  This past Shabbat was a grim reminder that the tensions aren’t going anywhere.  That we’re gathered here today, tears still fresh, is a testament to our strength and perseverance.   The tensions may still be here, but we are too, with a hope that’s been burning for some 2000 years. Am yisrael chai.”

– Paige Harouse, COL ’19 (pictured above)

I will build this world with love
You will build this world with love
If we build this world with love
God will build this world with love

– from Psalm 89, sung by Rabbi Rachel Gartner, director for Jewish Life, (pictured above)

Watch the original song (with Hebrew) by Rabbi Menachem Creditor here.

Listen to a recording of the vigil service here.


For those wishing to honor the loss of precious life in Pittsburgh by studying something in their name, Jewish Life offers these three articles for your consideration:

Eric K Ward: Skin in the Game: How Anti-Semitism Animates White Nationalism
Rabbi Jill Jacobs: How To Tell When Criticism of Israel Is Actually Anti-Semitism
Benjamin Steinhart Case: Decolonizing Jewishness: On Jewish Liberation in the 21st Century 

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