Mister Rogers once said, “You’ve made this day a special day, by just you’re being you. There’s no person in this world like you. And I like you just the way you are.”
Those words resonate for me, particularly when it comes to Pittsburgh, which has such a diverse community. When we all come together we create something so beautiful, something so unique, something unbreakable.
But why can’t we always all stand together and have each other’s backs? I feel it is extraordinarily important to have people you know you can rely upon, whether it is in school, a religious group or family. Sometimes you just need help.
Three years ago, on Oct. 27, it felt like Pittsburgh’s Jewish community was torn apart. Watching TV, I was scared and confused; it felt unsafe to be Jewish. People lost their lives just because of who they were. They were parents, sons, daughters, siblings, grandparents.
The night of the attack, the Pittsburgh community really came together. At the vigil that was held on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill, hundreds of people showed up, demonstrating just how much the Pittsburgh community cares. That different religions came together to fight against hate was so powerful.
What occurred on Oct. 27, made some people question who they were — and whether it was OK to be who they were. For me, especially going to a Jewish day school, it was a tough journey. When I walked into Community Day School the Monday after the shooting, the fear I felt was something I never should have experienced. No one should ever feel the fear I felt for the reason I did.
Everyone should feel free to be who they are. No one and nothing should make someone stop and wonder if they can show who they really are in public. No one should be ashamed of their religion. You are you, I am me and that’s OK. And it is very important that we all, as a community, ensure that everyone feels safe.
We live in a society where we should embrace each other’s differences. Our differences are what make us unique and special. They are what bring us together. But we have to move beyond accepting differences to embracing them. Supporting one another is one of the key aspects of a community. In some ways I believe that Pittsburgh does a good job at this, but in other ways I think we could be more supportive and inclusive.
Volunteering for one of the city’s many nonprofits is one way we can help our community become stronger and more inclusive. We can also donate money or launch fundraisers. Organizing and participating in communitywide events is also very important, as coming together to show our love and appreciation for one another can be very meaningful and can help us as a group grow.
When more and more people start to promote care for the community, others will follow.
It might be hard to talk about horrific events like the attack at the Tree of Life building, but we have to. We have to get right back up after we are beaten down.
And the only way change will happen is if we put in the effort to make that change. PJC
Gabi Kunzman is an eighth-grader at Community Day School. She lives in Squirrel Hill.