As I sit down to write this, it has been nine days since the horrific, antisemitic massacre at Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha in Pittsburgh. I’ve tried every day for the past five days to get my thoughts together and write something. Nothing seems right.

Chances are, you have read many news articles and watched the news and seen pictures of my beautiful city. Perhaps you saw the front page of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, with the first line of Mourner’s Kaddish printed in Hebrew as the headline. Maybe you were watching the NBC Nightly News when they ended their broadcast with Kaddish. I sit here thinking, what can I offer you that you haven’t already seen, heard or read?

I can offer you a personal story, a tangible way to make a difference and a blessing.

My heart shattered into millions of tiny pieces on Saturday morning, during the horrific massacre at Tree of Life-Or L'Simcha. While I was not inside the building, my house is one block away; I took shelter inside my home, held my family close and tried to protect my 10-year old from seeing the SWAT team running through our front yard. Later in the afternoon, my daughter realized that she had heard the gunshots. She looked at me with giant eyes full of tears and asked why someone would hate her and would want to kill her, just because of who she was. To say that it was a horrible day is an understatement.

Professionally, I am a Children’s Librarian. As my heart was aching last week I needed a course of action that would produce a healing impact. I know, both personally and professionally, that books have the power to heal. Books allow children and adults to process events, to feel emotions and to start conversations in a safe environment. Books can bring people together. The children that I work with, the children of Pittsburgh, need books. Books that will teach kindness, tolerance, love. Books that can help parents work through their child’s anxiety and help them talk about the events of last week. Families cannot wait for a book to be returned to the public library for their turn to use it. In partnership with my employer, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I created a curated Amazon WishList of books to help Pittsburgh heal. If you are looking for a tangible way to help Pittsburgh, you can click here and browse the list. If you are able to buy a book, or two, or eighteen, I guarantee that you will change a child’s life. You will be a shining light in a time of darkness.

I have just returned home from my Wexner class meeting. We spent time together, barely one week after mass murder, to share how we were feeling and to continue learning Jewish text together. We ended our evening in pairs, telling one another what we need and giving one another a blessing. It was both powerful and humbling. So, in that vein, here is my blessing for all of you:

May G-d bless you with the strength and courage to view each day as an opportunity to support your community and your family, to work against hate and to continue to make the world a better place. And may you be blessed each day with patience, love and compassion. Amen.

Get To Know The Author


Wexner Heritage Member Kristen Keller (Pittsburgh 18) is bound and determined to help make the world a better place. She holds a BS in Behavioral Psychology from Bethany College and a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. As a Children’s Librarian for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Kristen focuses on helping parents develop early literacy skills and foster a love of reading with their children. Kristen’s current involvement in the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh includes serving as the Lion of Judah Endowment Chair, Life & Legacy Chair, and she is an active member of the Israel & Overseas Funding Committee.