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An essential institution

"One of the beautiful things about the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle is that it brings together a multitude of voices which reflect the thriving nature of our community."

I will never truly be a Pittsburgher, in the fullest sense of that identity. Having lived here for just under 8 1/2 years, I have determined that to truly be a Pittsburgher, you must have grandparents who were born here. Alas.

However, my family and I consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have landed in this land of steel, rivers and football. And all the more so to live in the heart of the most neighborly Jewish community we have ever encountered, interconnected across denominational, political and cultural lines.

What makes our community so wonderful is that our Jewish institutions are strong: the synagogues, the JCC, the Federation, the social service organizations, the Jewish schools. You see, I’m an institutional kind of rabbi. I love organizations that bring people together. As our society’s trust in institutions continues to erode, my dread for the future grows; God forbid we should passively slide into an atomized world in which every individual is solely looking out for themselves. We need strong institutions that bring us support in times of need, comfort in times of grief, joy in life’s precious moments. We need ritual to frame our lives and our relationships in holiness, gathering spaces for every purpose imaginable, education and support and opportunities to celebrate together.
And we also need a forum for our collective voices.

One of the beautiful things about the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle is that it brings together a multitude of voices which reflect the thriving nature of our community. I look forward to reading each week about the girl who is about to become bat mitzvah, upcoming holiday events and photos of children doing great things at Jewish schools. I am inspired by news about the Eradicate Hate Global Summit, or the two local professors, one Jewish and one Muslim, who are bringing people together to seek compassion. I suddenly regret not having known the octogenarian who just passed away, yet whose life story is immediately compelling. I read about campus hijinks and visiting Israeli teens and theatrical productions and interesting local personalities of all sorts.

Now, of course the Jews are a fractious people; we have been inclined, at least since the Exodus from Egypt, to disagreement. Our words float heavenward buoyed by a torrent of rabbinic argument. The principle of a maḥloqet leshem shamayim, a disagreement for the sake of Heaven, is enshrined upon the Jewish bookshelf.

And yet those dissenting voices sit, occasionally uncomfortably, side-by-side in the opinion pages of the Chronicle, and sometimes spill onto the other pages as well. And that fills my heart with nakhes because I know that the Jewish spirit of argument is alive and well in my community.

The Chronicle is a long-standing institution of which we should be proud. It brings us together in both glorious harmony and discord, as any healthy community should be. As one who is Shabbat-observant, I am grateful that I can crack open the print edition on a lazy Saturday afternoon, enjoying the crinkly, tactile experience of paper, and during the rest of the week I am just as grateful for online updates.

As a rabbi in this community, it is true that my name and my writing appear in the Chronicle from time to time, and of course I appreciate the attention. But all the more so, I look forward to hearing the voices of others in the community — not just other pulpit rabbis, whose Shabbat-morning sermons I will never have the opportunity to hear — but all of us: all the Jews of greater Pittsburgh, whether they are true Pittsburghers or immigrants like me.

The pages, printed or pixeled, of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle are an essential and varied platform for all of us, and in a time when local journalism is increasingly threatened, now is the time to support this dedicated community forum. PJC

Rabbi Seth Adelson is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom.

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