Pittsburgh prepares third-year commemoration of Oct. 27 massacre
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10.2711 victims to be honored throughout October

Pittsburgh prepares third-year commemoration of Oct. 27 massacre

Torah Study, volunteer opportunities and commemoration ceremony are all planned

Families lighting yahrzeit candles for their loved ones at the 2019 commemoration of Oct. 27. This year's commemoration will include volunteer opportunities, Torah study and an outdoor ceremony.  (Photo by Joshua Franzos)
Families lighting yahrzeit candles for their loved ones at the 2019 commemoration of Oct. 27. This year's commemoration will include volunteer opportunities, Torah study and an outdoor ceremony. (Photo by Joshua Franzos)

The Pittsburgh Jewish community will honor the victims of the Oct. 27, 2018, Pittsburgh synagogue shooting with in-person volunteer opportunities, remote learning and a public commemoration ceremony at Prospect Drive in Schenley Park.

“It’s incredibly important to hold the space as a community for remembrance,” said Maggie Feinstein, director of the 10.27 Healing Partnership. “It was a communal trauma that we experienced when we lost those 11 lives.”

Feinstein is coordinating the third commemoration of the massacre in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and Repair the World Pittsburgh. Also involved in the planning are the three congregations that were attacked that day —Congregation Dor Hadash, New Light Congregation and Tree of Life Congregation — the families of those murdered, the survivors and some other local Jewish organizations.

While several of the events planned will be familiar to the community, Feinstein noted that the programming for each year’s commemoration has differed: A large event was held at Soldiers and Sailors Hall & Memorial Museum as part of the first year’s commemoration, while last year’s programming was entirely virtual because of COVID-19 restrictions. This year will be a hybrid.

An in-person commemoration ceremony will be held Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 4:30 p.m., Feinstein said. The event will be held outdoors because of the pandemic.

“The planning committee really prioritized that if we are going to be outside, it is a priority to make it accessible to our older community and to people with any kind of physical disability,” Feinstein said. “The group was unanimous that Prospect Drive was a great site.”

In August, 11 trees were planted near Prospect Drive and Hobart Street in honor of the 11 victims murdered Oct. 27, 2018.

Commemoration events begin more than a week before the public ceremony. Eighteen volunteer opportunities, beginning Oct. 18, were created by Repair the World as part of “Oct. 27: Remember, Reflect in Spirit and Action.” Most will occur on Oct. 24, the date marking the yahrzeit of the 11 people murdered, said Repair the World Program Manager Jess Gold. The volunteer opportunities include tending the earth, community care, civic engagement and health and wellness.

Many of the opportunities were created in conjunction with the victims’ families, Gold said, “in honor of individuals whose lives were lost.”

Other service events include an orchard harvest and weeding, a virtual workshop to advocate for gun safety reform, cemetery cleanup along with the Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association, and a blood drive.

Pittsburgh’s Jewish Federation will hold virtual Torah study sessions on both Oct. 24 and Oct. 27. There will be three learning sessions on each day: On Sunday, Oct. 24, the sessions will be offered at 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. On Wednesday, Oct. 27, sessions will take place at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

“There are 11 scholars from all over the country and Israel representing the diversity of Jewish Pittsburgh — so, there’s Reform, Orthodox, Conservative and Reconstructionist,” said Rabbi Amy Bardack, director of Jewish Life and Learning at the Federation.
A small group representing the affected congregations, victims’ families and survivors helped define the parameters of the 50-minute learning opportunities, Bardack said, based around the themes of remembrance, loss, hope and more.
Torah study, the rabbi explained, has always been a traditional way of honoring the memories of those who have died.
“And we want to keep the memories alive on this yahrzeit date by providing Torah study open to all, as a traditional response to loss,” she said.
More information about the various programs offered, as well as registration, can be found on the 10.27 Healing Partnership website, 1027healingpartnership.org. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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