Like bees pollinating rose bushes, Temple David’s social hall was abuzz with activity the evening of Oct. 27.
Interfaith volunteers worked at a frantic pace, packaging cookies baked earlier in the week. The sweet treats, including many cut into rose shapes, were then delivered to first responders, the 10.27 Healing Partnership, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and Hello Neighbor, in memory of Rose Mallinger.
Mallinger died on Oct. 27, 2018, when a gunman entered the Tree of Life building and murdered the Squirrel Hill resident and 10 other members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community: Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger.
Mallinger’s daughter Andrea Wedner, Dan Leger, and four Pittsburgh police officers were injured in the attack but survived.
The gunman targeted members of three congregations housed in the building: Congregation Dor Hadash, New Light Congregation and Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha.
Temple David’s Oct. 27 commemoration program included an interfaith service titled “Dozens of Roses in Memory of One Special Rose.” Deacon Mike Kelly from Catholic Church Christ the Divine Shepherd and Pastor Lindsay White from Cross Roads Presbyterian Church participated in the event.
Mallinger’s grand-niece Rachael Farber and her mother, Beverly, shared the recipe that belonged to both Rose and her sister, Sylvia. The sisters lived in side-by-side houses where they raised their children. A rose bush grew between the two homes.
Joann White served on Temple David’s 10.27 commemoration committee. She said the congregation decided to bake the cookies because Farber is a member.
“I think for everybody from the Jewish community, everyone has a little different piece of how they are connected,” she said. “Everyone’s connected somehow to somebody but they’re probably the most personally connected because it was family.”
Temple David Rabbi Barbara Symons approached members of the Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium with the idea of helping with the events the congregation was planning for the four-year commemoration of the massacre at the Tree of Life building.
Great care was given to the project, Symons said, ensuring that all members of the Ministerium could participate if they chose. That included talking with an imam associated with the Ministerium to confirm that Muslim community members could bake the cookies that contained vanilla, an ingredient that includes alcohol, a substance banned in Islam.
The involvement of the Farbers made the project especially meaningful, Symons said, but so did the opportunity to do more than simply host a commemoration ceremony.
“We wanted to be hands-on,” she said. “There are people who spent hours thinking this through — what does the box look like with typical Temple elegance, and how many [cookies] fit in the box? It seemed to use the diversity of talents within Temple. Everything felt right.”
Included with the baking and decorating, folding boxes and pasting labels atop the completed containers and affixing ribbons, volunteers also delivered the cookies. The scope of the project was large. Symons said there were enough boxes for 2,400 cookies, which were all used.
White said thought went into who received the cookies. Giving cookies to Hello Neighbor, she noted, was a direct reaction to the gunman’s motives: He expressed hate against immigrants before entering the Tree of Life building.
The involvement of the interfaith community, White said, could be traced to Oct. 27, 2018.
“Rabbi is on the Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium, and that horrible morning, they called Barbara and said, ‘Whatever you need, we are coming,’” White recalled. “So many people showed up. There were tears everywhere, the whole community was involved. You know, it’s not all the time, but on this anniversary date, it’s something everyone thinks about and asks, ‘What can we do to show respect, to remember and not to forget?’”
Deacon Kelly said he wanted to be at the interfaith service to combat hate and show unity.
“The climate in the world is so divisive,” he said. “We need to show solidarity and support one another.”
Pastor Lindsay White agreed, saying cooperation makes everyone stronger.
“Our congregation has been richer from having a relationship with Temple David,” she said. “This is the time they needed us to show up.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rose Mallinger and Sylvia Moidel’s sugar cookies
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 cup of shortening
1 tsp vanilla
Sift the dry ingredients.
Add shortening and mix with a fork.
Add unbeaten eggs and vanilla.
Use cookie cutters to cut cookies into shapes.**
Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 minutes.
Decorate when cool.
*It is helpful to refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours before rolling out.
**If sprinkling with colored sugar, do it before baking.