In Loving Memory of the Victims of the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh

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Monday, November 12, 2018
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victims of Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

 

vigil

These are the first words of the Jewish mourners' prayer, which will be recited tonight on the first Sabbath since the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.

 

Pittsburgh Post Gazette 

From the Executive Editor’s Desk:

 

The reaction was swift, strong, and full of sympathy. In transliteration, that prayer, known as the Mourners’ Kaddish, is pronounced this way: Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'mei rabbaw. In translation it means: ‘’Magnified and sanctified be Your name.’ In many synagogues, the tradition is for those who mourn to stand during the recitation of this prayer. In others, the custom is that the entire congregation stands, reflecting the notion that no person stands alone in grief, that the grieving are surrounded by others sharing their sadness and loss. This week, each entire congregation — indeed all of Pittsburgh — may well stand, in spirit if not in fact, for if Pittsburgh’s passage in the past several days has shown anything, it is that these losses are all of ours, and that the solidarity of Pittsburgh’s grief is the face we have shown to those beyond the three rivers to the four corners of the earth.

— David M. Shribman

 

Empire State Building Dark in Honor of Victims 2

New York City's Empire State Building Went Dark in Memory of the Victims

of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

 

 

Thousands of people gathered in front of the Pittsburgh synagogue in Squirrel Hill where 11 people were killed and others injured after a man allegedly opened fire during services Saturday morning. To pay tribute to the lives that were lost, the mourners crowded the street fronting the Tree of Life synagogue, holding candles, singing songs and pleading silently with signs to end the hate and violence. While the Squirrel Hill neighborhood has attracted a diverse range of residents in recent years, it remains a historic hub for Pittsburgh’s Jewish population.

 

Stronger than Hate

 

Drew Barkley, the executive director of the nearby synagogue Temple Sinai, told Time magazine on Saturday that the community is tight-knit. “The sad part is that people are waiting to find out who the dead are because it’s such a close-knit community there’s like one degree of separation and chances are everyone will know at least one person who died,” Barkley said.

 

 candles

 

Students from the nearby Taylor Allderdice High School organized the candlelight vigil, which began inside the Sixth Presbyterian Church before moving to the streets, in the hours after the shooting. More than 3,000 people attended the event to show their support, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

 

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“This was a very emotional, beautiful vigil, so proud of our community, our hearts are broken from this senseless, senseless hate crime against the Jewish community,” Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle (D), who was in attendance, said, according to CBS Pittsburgh. “To see these young students say what they had to say and to show that strength and the sense of community that exists here, that this is not something that we’re going to let break us, was really inspiring,” he continued.  Allderdice High School is less than one and a half miles from where the massacre took place.  Thousands of people gathered in front of the Tree of Life synagogue to pay tribute to the 11 people killed in Saturday’s mass shooting.

 

Tree of Life Synagogue 

 

Robert Bowers, 46, is accused of opening fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in an apparently anti-Semitic attack, leaving nearly a dozen people dead and injuring six others. The synagogue was reportedly crowded at the time of the shooting, with at least three services and events scheduled for the day. Officials said Bowers, who reportedly had an “assault rifle” and at least three handguns, announced his presence to the congregation by shouting, “All Jews must die,” before opening fire. He was later arrested after exchanging fire with police officers. The shooting is considered one of the deadliest attacks on Jewish people in recent U.S. history.

 

 

Speaking at the vigil, Sophia Levin, a sophomore at Allderdice High School whose mother and grandparents attended Tree of Life synagogue, said that the mass shooting has changed her. “Anti-Semitism was something that happened in history, that happened in other places,” she said, according to the New York Times. “I am a different Jew today than I was yesterday,” Levin also said, the Post-Gazette reported. “I hope that the Jew I am today will be stronger.

 

Squirrle Hill Neighborhood in Pittsbourgh 

Squirrel Hill Neighborhood, Pittsburgh PA

 

The Tree of Life synagogue in the city's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, a heavily Jewish area, was holding a Shabbat religious service at the time of the shooting.  The names of those shot dead by a gunman yelling "All Jews must die" will be released on Sunday October 28, 2018 after the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States, officials said.

 

 

                    HUMANITARIAN

 

Ari Mehler with dog

Ari Mahler, RN.

 

I am The Jewish Nurse:

Yes, that Jewish Nurse. The same one that people are talking about in the Pittsburgh shooting that left 11 dead. The trauma nurse in the ER that cared for Robert Bowers who yelled, "Death to all Jews," as he was wheeled into the hospital. The Jewish nurse who ran into a room to save his life.


To be honest, I’m nervous about sharing this. I just know I feel alone right now, and the irony of the world talking about me doesn’t seem fair without the chance to speak for myself.


When I was a kid, being labeled “The Jewish (anything)”, undoubtedly had derogatory connotations attached to it. That's why it feels so awkward to me that people suddenly look at it as an endearing term. As an adult, deflecting my religion by saying “I’m not that religious,” makes it easier for people to accept I’m Jewish – especially when I tell them my father is a rabbi. “I’m not that religious,” is like saying, “Don’t worry, I’m not that Jewish, therefore, I’m not so different than you,” and like clockwork, people don’t look at me as awkwardly as they did a few seconds beforehand.


I experienced anti-Semitism a lot as a kid. It’s hard for me to say if it was always a product of genuine hatred, or if kids with their own problems found a reason to single me out from others. Sure, there were a few Jewish kids at my school, but no one else had a father who was a Rabbi. I found drawings on desks of my family being marched into gas chambers, swastikas drawn on my locker, and notes shoved inside of it saying, “Die Jew. Love, Hitler.” It was a different time back then, where bullying was not monitored like it is now. I was weak, too. Rather than tell anyone, I hid behind fear. Telling on the people who did this would only lead to consequences far worse.


Regardless, the fact that this shooting took place doesn’t shock me. To be honest, it’s only a matter of time before the next one happens. History refutes hope that things will change. My heart yearns for change, but today's climate doesn't foster nurturing, tolerance, or civility. Even before this shooting took place, there’s no real evidence supporting otherwise. The FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center note that Jews only account for two percent of the U.S. population, yet 60% of all religious hate crimes are committed against them. I don’t know why people hate us so much, but the underbelly of anti-Semitism seems to be thriving.
So now, here I am, The Jewish Nurse that cared for Robert Bowers. I’ve watched them talk about me on CNN, Fox News, Anderson Cooper, PBS, and the local news stations. I’ve read articles mentioning me in the NY Times and the Washington Post. The fact that I did my job, a job which requires compassion and empathy over everything, is newsworthy to people because I’m Jewish. Even more so because my dad’s a Rabbi.


To be honest, I didn't see evil when I looked into Robert Bower's eyes. I saw something else. I can’t go into details of our interactions because of HIPAA. I can tell you that as his nurse, or anyone's nurse, my care is given through kindness, my actions are measured with empathy, and regardless of the person you may be when you're not in my care, each breath you take is more beautiful than the last when you're lying on my stretcher. This was the same Robert Bowers that just committed mass homicide. The Robert Bowers who instilled panic in my heart worrying my parents were two of his 11 victims less than an hour before his arrival.
I’m sure he had no idea I was Jewish. Why thank a Jewish nurse, when 15 minutes beforehand, you’d shoot me in the head with no remorse? I didn’t say a word to him about my religion. I chose not to say anything to him the entire time. I wanted him to feel compassion. I chose to show him empathy. I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong. Besides, if he finds out I’m Jewish, does it really matter? The better question is, what does it mean to you?
Love. That’s why I did it. Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope. It demonstrates humanity. It reaffirms why we’re all here. The meaning of life is to give meaning to life, and love is the ultimate force that connects all living beings. I could care less what Robert Bowers thinks, but you, the person reading this, love is the only message I wish instill in you. If my actions mean anything, love means everything.


Respectfully,
Ari Mahler, RN.