The first COVID-19 death in the state of Pennsylvania was commemorated during an interfaith service hosted by the Tree of Life Congregation on Thursday, March 18.
The service included a mixture of thoughts, prayers and songs, as well as remarks from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
Included as part of the ceremony were:
• Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers, Tree of Life
• sOm Sharma, the Hindu-Jain Temple of Monroeville
• The Rev. Liddy Barlow, Christian Associates of SW Pennsylvania
• Dr. Sebnem Unlu
• The Rev. Karie Charlton, Third Presbyterian Church
• The Rev. C. Matthew Hawkins, St. Benedict the Moor Parish
• Rector Jonathan Jensen, Calvary Episcopal Church
• The Rev. Vincent Campbell, Ebenezer Baptist Church
• Bishop David Zubik, Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh
Two choirs also performed — the Hazamir HaSharon: The International Jewish Teen Choir and The Calvary Choir of the Calvary Episcopal Church.
During his prerecorded remarks, Wolf called the commemoration part of a “solemn day,” marking one year since the first COVID-19 death in the state. He noted that more than 24,000 Pennsylvanians were lost to the virus, and closed his statement looking to the future.
“Just as we got through the past year standing together, we will move forward together,” Wolf said. “Healing is possible and hope for a brighter tomorrow is on the horizon.”
While the service drew on elements of all the faiths represented, much of it was familiar to a Jewish audience, including readings from Psalms and Jeremiah and the Mi Sheberach sung by Myers.
The rabbi said he felt the service offered the community a chance to recognize what it had experienced over the last year.
“I broadened my personal recognition — that I had been livestreaming from my living room for one year — to encompass what our entire community felt: a sense of loss that needed to be acknowledged, healing that all of us seek and renewal that hopeful days are before us.”
The service can be viewed in its entirety on the congregation’s Facebook page, facebook.com/treeoflifepgh.