Last Tuesday I was in Pittsburgh. The Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Community Centers of North America (JCCA), and the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA), “sponsored” a Solidarity Mission.
I was joined by Detroiters Carol Weintraub Fogel, Board of Directors of the JCCA, and Jeff Lasday, Chief Operating Officer at our Jewish Community Center. One hundred of us learned from and supported the local lay and professional leaders, were briefed by the FBI, toured the amazing Squirrel Hill neighborhood (where Jeff grew up) and visited the Tree of life Synagogue where 11 Jews were murdered less than one month ago.
We gathered in the surreal scene of the sanctuary and heard from Rabbi Jeffrey Myers who was leading services that morning. While I was trepidatious to make the journey I am inspired that we all showed up to witness and to show solidarity and to try to figure out how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. As the Chair of the Board of the NJHSA I was asked to make some remarks:
My name is Perry Ohren. I am the CEO of Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit, and the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, an almost two year old international organization with 150 member agencies, in Canada, in Israel, and in the United States. Jewish Family & Community Services Pittsburgh is a member. My friend, JFCS CEO, Jordan Golin is on our Board.
On behalf of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, our Board of Directors, our CEO Reuben Rotman, and our member agencies, we are so deeply sorry for the tragic murder of 11 innocent people at the Tree of Life, in Pittsburgh, three Shabbats ago. The Network stands in solidarity with all those grieving this loss. We also stand, arm in arm, in moving forward with unbroken resolve with the Tree of Life Synagogue, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Jewish Family & Community Services Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Jewish community, and moral people everywhere, committed to rooting out anti-Semitism and all grievous acts of hatred against humanity.
As Pittsburgh continues to put one foot in front of the other, I want to specifically draw attention to my colleagues at Jewish Family & Community Services Pittsburgh. JFCS quickly and humbly stepped in to this devastation and will continue to provide essential assistance for the community in the months and years ahead. Like JFCS, the common thread among all of the Network’s Jewish human service agencies, in what we call ourselves and in what we do, is Jewish and Service.
Like Jewish Family & Community Services, the way that our member agencies do Jewish is through service.
We help older adults and their loved ones to age in their communities.
We help families suddenly on hard financial times to make ends meet.
We help adults in intimate partner violence situations to seek better lives.
We help job seekers to attain employment, marching toward self-sufficiency and their full potential.
We help people struggling with their demons, possibly thinking life isn’t worthwhile anymore, to step outside of their deep pain.
We help families who need food to make it through the month.
We help people arriving to our country as refugees, fleeing persecution, to pursue a life of freedom and opportunity.
We help Holocaust survivors to live their remaining days with dignity and respect.
We help people with developmental disabilities to live their lives, alongside us at work, as our neighbors and praying next to us in our synagogues.
We help people traumatized by disasters, whether natural hurricanes, floods and fires, or horrific acts, to grieve, to move on, to heal.
We help! When someone is in pain, we help. Our tools aren’t many, nor are they big. Our main tool is our selves: a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, an ear to listen, a steady presence through crisis, challenge, transition, trauma.
Jewish Family & Community Services Pittsburgh does this every day. It is never easy. It is always necessary.
Three Shabbats ago Jewish Family & Community Services woke up to the unspeakable tragedy of 11 Jews murdered while in prayer at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Jewish Family & Community Services said “Hinenu”. We are here! As your brothers and sisters throughout this country and around the world we are here with you, in solidarity, to help all of us to move forward, bringing light and hope and healing.