The end of October will never be as it was before. And neither will we. No matter where we were on October 27, 2018, everything that came before and everything that followed and will follow, is punctuated by this big, enormous, unforgettable, tragic, and irreparable tear in the fabric of our lives.
I am grateful to our community leadership for thoughtfully guiding us through this first year. Grateful to the first responders, loved ones of those murdered, survivors and their families, who, in the midst of their own physical and emotional trauma, were able to courageously commit to helping all of us know how they want our community to approach this one year milestone.
And their guidance has been clear. The themes for the coming days leading up to and including October 27 are:
In keeping with those themes, next weekend, our city will be engaged in a commemorative day of service, study, and community honoring the lives lost and people affected by the attack on three Pittsburgh synagogues—Congregation Dor Hadash, New Light Congregation, and Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation—one year ago on October 27, 2018.
What will the day leading in to next weekend look like here at Community Day School? In addition to being a key institution in the heart of the larger Pittsburgh community, we are also a unique community unto ourselves. Mindful of the emotional trauma suffered by families in our own CDS community, we believe that the tone we set for the day leading into this weekend matters tremendously for our children, their families, and staff.
When we gathered to think about what would be the best way to mark this time in a school like ours, we thought back to that first week after, one year ago. It was a week of vigils, funerals, therapy dogs, counseling sessions, endless showers of cards, gifts, and more food than we could (or should) have consumed.
We remember that we were stunned and overwhelmed by the kindnesses that came to us from unlikely allies near and far. We learned firsthand the comfort that a handwritten note can bring, the love that a delivered meal could convey. We learned that communities in pain were inspired to reach out to us in our time of pain.
And we wondered. Why we don’t do that for others when we can?
So, we feel compelled to pay forward the goodness that overwhelmed us in the aftermath of the 10/27 attack. We decided that we would do that next Friday by reaching out to others worldwide and in our own neighborhoods, to others who are suffering, and in doing so, honor the memories of the 11 people who we lost.
Beyond the impulse to pay the kindness forward, to lend our hearts and hands to repair, we thought back to that first week and recognized that there something else that overwhelmed us. For all of us, the highlight, the most memorable and deeply moving moment we shared that first week, was when Friday arrived, and we gathered for our normal, as usual, first Friday of the month All School Kabbalat Shabbat.
What made it so special? It was us. Our strength. Five days after the attack on our brothers and sisters who had come together to pray as Jews, we were here. Defiantly, joyfully, Jewishly, together. Not a word needed to be spoken about what had happened. Everyone knew. And everyone knew that our singing, dancing, hugging, laughing, and crying community coming together to welcome Shabbat - we knew that that was the only possible response to those who would seek to destroy us. As Jews have for millenia, and as we are doing today, we assert our pride in who we are. And we are leaning in, doubling down, on our shared work of raising educated, proud, and joyful Jews of the next generation.
Remember. Repair. Together.
In keeping with these themes, we’ve decided to plan a schoolwide Kabbalat Shabbat and gathering here at CDS from 8-8:45 a.m. on Friday, October 25th. The program will be our usual Friday morning Kabbalat Shabbat with some additional music, including the song 'Stand In The Light' that our students are practicing with Eileen Freedman and we invite you to learn.
Immediately following, we will provide students and families with the opportunity to write messages of love and kindness on postcards that we will mail to other communities impacted by gun violence and acts of hatred, including some in our own backyard. By 9 a.m. we expect to resume our normal schedule. We also will have a gathering space with coffee for parents who are seeking to connect before and after Kabbalat Shabbat.
In addition, before Kabbalat Shabbat and throughout the day, there will be counseling services offered by volunteers from Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) and our longtime partners at Duquesne University. Parents, family members, students, and staff are invited to avail themselves of these supports in advance of the weekend.