In a moving ceremony held on Thursday, Nov. 1, honoring the memory of the 11 victims of the Oct. 27 shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, Farber Hebrew Day School (FHDS) students paid tribute to each one of the people who lost their lives that Shabbos morning.
Speaking during the program for middle and high school students and staff, ninth grader Noa Pergament presented a student message about the need to combat hatred through acts of lovingkindness and spoke on behalf of FHDS students in calling for an end to violence in this country.
“Hate consumes so much of this world, most of the time for stupid or irrational reasons,” Pergament said. “These 11 victims got murdered for simply being Jewish and practicing what they believed in! The point of this speech is to say we need to start spreading love.
“I want to challenge everyone in this room to give a compliment to at least one person a day. And you never know — you could be the difference between life and death. Just saying something that might seem small to you could mean a lot more to someone else than you think. If you’re not going to do it to make other people feel good about themselves, then do it for the victims of the shooting.”
The azkara (Jewish memorial service) included a slideshow picturing those who lost their lives during what is believed to be the worst attack on a Jewish institution in U.S. history.
Ten high school students lit candles and spoke with emotion about each of the innocent people who were senselessly massacred during Shabbos services, enumerating the positive impacts they had on their families, the synagogue and Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.
Rabbi Yehudah Lowy, FHDS Judaic Studies teacher, was a personal friend of and teacher to Cecil and David Rosenthal, who were among those killed. The two brothers were students in an adult education class Rabbi Lowy taught in 2012-13 when he lived in the Squirrel Hill community. Along with 2,000 others, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, Rabbi Lowy attended their funeral on Tuesday, Oct. 30. He said the service evoked both tremendous sadness at their loss and tremendous joy at remembering the amazing people they were.
“They lived lives of love,” Lowy said, “and the shul was their life. At their loss, Our Jewish heart, our human heart, was broken. It takes terrible times like this to realize we are all one.”
The rabbi also read Tehillim, verses from the Book of Psalms, which often accompany such commemorations. And in a show of strength against anti-Semitism in all its forms, the ceremony concluded with the entire assembly singing both the Star-Spangled Banner and Hatikvah, the U.S. and Israeli national anthems.
By Judy Greenwald, Contributing Writer