Connecting Through Memory
Rabbi Elka Abrahamson
Letter sent to network Fellows, Members and Alumni who live in Pittsburgh
Our Dearest Friends,
I know that a vicious terror attack at a shul, one you pass by frequently, one in your own beautiful neighborhood and of course, one in which you might have raised your own voice in sacred prayer is never too far from your memory. How can it not be? My dad, Al Abrahamson, z”l, himself a longtime and committed “minyanaire,” died one week following the attack on three Pittsburgh synagogues — Congregation Dor Hadash, New Light Congregation and Tree of Life* Or L’Simcha Congregation — on October 27, 2018. My memories of my dad are, it goes without saying, not reserved for his yahrtzeit, be it the English date or the Hebrew date. Both resonate in unique ways. Like many of you, I know the acute sadness of mourning for one person, the tears one family sheds for the loss of a wonderful man, one who lived a full life and died peacefully. Trying to describe those feelings sometimes takes me beyond my own ability to find any right words.
How much more difficult is this somber season for all of you, this beyond description tragic chapter in Pittsburgh’s history? It is 2 years since the vicious murder of 11 cherished members of your community. Each life brutally ended leaves behind his own world of pain and sadness, her own world of pain and sadness. Each one of them, regardless of their age, leaves behind ever-expanding circles of loved ones who long for more time with them. You are holding layer upon layer of precious memories and absorbing waves of shock, of enduring trauma and perhaps lingering fear. Those of us thinking of you a state away feel only a measure of it. The lives of those reliable shul members, also among the communities’ minyanaires and shabbos regulars, ended abruptly. Each victim was deprived of a peaceful death in a moment of unimaginable violence at the hand of a raging anti-Semite. While the darkness of that day remains, Rabbi Moses, Rabba Epstein, Angie and I pray together with all of you that the beauty and radiant light of each of these souls shines forth today and every day. May the memory of:
…be a unique blessing.
Next week, as 11 yahrtzeit candles are kindled over and over again, I pray they bring healing and, most of all, that they allow the unique splendor of each person to be recalled. Through our pain let us recall each one’s commitment to friend and families, to acts of love and goodness, and to the kindness that filled their homes and hearts. Let us celebrate the spirit they brought to their shul, to the Jewish People and to the city of Pittsburgh. And may you carry their legacy through your own acts of chesed/loving kindness and ahava/love.
Rabba Epstein shared words of Torah with the larger Pittsburgh Jewish community as part of the 10.27 Healing Partnership. You can find the video here. Her message, like this note, is delivered from all of us at The Wexner Foundation.
May you hold each name in your heart while holding each other close as you carry your community toward strength and unity,
Rabbi Elka Abrahamson
President, The Wexner Foundation