The simplest of actions is symbolizing the deepest of bonds. While survivors and loved ones of the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting endure the first week of trial, the public is demonstrating its support by donning blue ribbons. The trial is expected to last several months.
Margie Ruttenberg, a volunteer with the 10.27 Healing Partnership, said the idea of wearing a ribbon was spurred by countless people asking how they could help during this period.
“We immediately thought about the Stronger Than Hate movement, the lawn signs, the billboards, T-shirts, the pride that came with being part of something bigger than oneself,” Ruttenberg said.
“We know that everyone feels differently. And for many, standing in solidarity is a powerful way to do something,” said Emery Malachowski, outreach coordinator at the 10.27 Healing Partnership.
Ruttenberg and Malachowski announced the blue ribbon campaign on Thursday outside the Squirrel Hill Flower Shop on Murray Avenue. Katy Levin, the shop’s manager, is the third generation of her family to work at the store.
“I'm a part of a neighborhood and a city where people care about each other, and I'm here today to show that our community stands together,” she said.
With a small blue cloth pinned to her sweater, Levin said she grew up at the Tree of Life synagogue and knew several of the victims killed there on Oct. 27, 2018.
“It's important to me to show solidarity with the families and community members who are going through the trial,” Levin said.
Along with demonstrating unity, the blue ribbons are a statement against antisemitism and hate.
“Antisemitism is something that the Jewish community has always faced, but it shouldn't be that way,” Levin said. “I think hate is a word that shouldn't be in our vocabulary, and I'm proud to say that hate is wrong and that antisemitism is wrong and that together as a community we are stronger than hate.”
Malachowski and Ruttenberg hope the campaign generates a wide following.
“The goal is nobody walks around Squirrel Hill without seeing a blue ribbon,” Malachowski said.
“I want everyone with ties to Pittsburgh, everyone around the country to wear a blue ribbon,” Ruttenberg said.
Minutes later, state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) affixed a blue ribbon to his lapel and announced his intention to bring ribbons to Harrisburg for fellow representatives.
“It's a very emotional time for everybody, so to have a way to identify and show support — even in this nice way with a ribbon,” he said. “[It] mirrors what we're trying to do legislatively.”
On Monday, as the trial against the accused Pittsburgh synagogue shooter began with jury selection, Frankel unveiled new anti-hate crime legislation at the Pennsylvania State Capitol complex.
Hate crimes are an “epidemic in the state of Pennsylvania, as well as the country, and we saw what hate did to our community,” Frankel told the Chronicle.
“When I go around the state, a lot of people know that I come from Squirrel Hill and they always ask me, ‘What are you going to do about this?’ So, here we are, we are trying to do something about it,” he said. “Seeing the kind of solidarity within our own community helps inspire me and others to go forward with this work.”
Before offering passersby blue ribbons, Malachowski said they are available for pickup at the 10.27 Healing Partnership inside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Squirrel Hill.
Additionally, she said, programs, drop-in counseling and “a safe space for those seeking support and connection” are available at the Healing Partnership five days a week.
“Oct. 27, 2018, deeply impacted this community,” she continued. “But within the same community that experienced the trauma, we can find healing and great resilience. Connection and community are key to building long-term resiliency and healing from trauma.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story is part of ongoing coverage of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial by the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and the Pittsburgh Union Progress in a collaboration supported by funding from the Pittsburgh Media Partnership.