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Pittsburgh congregations mark 2 years since shooting under shadow of COVID-19

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PITTSBURGH (Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle) — Two years after 11 loved ones were ripped from their families, multiple bodies and minds were injured and a sense of communal serenity was shattered by the events of October 27, 2018, the three congregations principally affected by the shootings — Dor Hadash, New Light, and Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha — are trying to find a balance between looking at the past and focusing on the future, all within the constraints of COVID-19.

For Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, there are the obvious losses of Joyce Fienberg, Rose Mallinger, Cecil and David Rosenthal, Bernice and Sylvan Simon and Irving Younger. Barb Feige, Tree of Life’s executive director, said the congregation is continuing to respect each family’s journey, but the near eradication of in-person gatherings has challenged longstanding support systems.

And, Feige pointed out, the congregation has suffered double displacement: First, in the aftermath of October 27, 2018, Tree of Life relocated to Rodef Shalom Congregation. Then, because of COVID-19, Tree of Life went virtual.

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When the 2019 High Holidays arrived, additional space was required beyond what Rodef Shalom, Tree of Life’s new home, could provide. The Calvary Episcopal Church offered its 1,000-seat sanctuary free of charge, which Tree of Life graciously accepted, yet this meant the congregation was tasked with personalizing an unfamiliar space. Illustrative: A woman stands at a memorial for the victims of a deadly shooting the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, on October 27, 2018. (SMIALOWSKI/AFP)

The need for virtual programming for this year’s High Holidays helped the congregation really get a sense of itself, explained Feige: “Tree of Life is more than a building. It’s a family. It’s a community. It’s people together, and yes, there is a connection to the building at Wilkins........

© The Times of Israel

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