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Darchei Noam's Mission to Pittsburgh: Participants' Reactions

2019-01-03 12:00:19 PM

Jan3

Esther Enkin:

There are times when we are lucky enough to have the privilege to participate in transformative events. Our weekend in Pittsburgh was one of those times for me – and, judging by the comments by members of Dor Hadash and the 28 DN members who participated, it is a widely shared feeling. It was truly remarkable - six weeks after such a profound trauma, our Pittsburgh hosts opened their homes and their hearts to us. They organized homestays for most of us, fed us, and prayed with us. They kept telling us how much it meant to them that we were there – my response was that the honor was ours.  It is remarkable that truly being there can make such a difference. Tribute and kudos go to Rabbi Grimberg, who had the vision and the leadership to make this happen, and to David and Debbie Gilbert, who contributed so much to the Friday night services.

Those of us who were in Pittsburgh have shared some of our thoughts on the experience, found below.

 

Steve Lurie:

David and Debbie’s music and stories on Friday night set the stage for what was I hope a healing journey for everyone. Rabbi Tina’s two dvar torahs taught us about hope and strength in times of despair. The afternoon healing circle after Saturday services allowed Dor Hadash members to reflect on the many ways the tragic events of October affected them.

On the way down there, we talked about how to approach our hosts. Should we ask about what happened? Should we initiate the discussion, or let them lead us? All good questions, but in the end they seemed to answer themselves –conversations drifted from sports to politics to that moment, and the impact it has had on their lives as well as the wider Pittsburgh community. 

 

Debbie Gilbert:

Shabbat with Dor Hadash felt like being with close friends rather than a first date. We had tender conversations, shed tears, studied Torah and held sacred space together. I was told that DN’s presence gave perspective and hope as people heal and find strength. My final goodbye was to the young security guard by the front door. I thanked him for being there – just as I thank our security guards every Shabbat. Tears filled his eyes and mine. Ripples from Squirrel Hill are wide and deep, as are the Starbucks window paintings of love, kindness and hope.

There was such power in our connection; it is inspiring to know that one’s presence alone can provide comfort and strength. 

 

Gilda Jubas:

The weekend has stayed with me and will continue to do so. I was touched by the overwhelming appreciation and gratitude of the Dor Hadash members for our presence, for our being there. I am also grateful that I stayed with a wonderful couple and had the opportunity to share time and conversation with them along with Allyne and Sara.

 

I appreciated being able to "debrief" with Kathy after the weekend; an unexpected plus! It is so important to have the opportunity to do so after such an experience.

 

I am so pleased I got to know some of our members during this deep, meaningful and emotional experience. I hope we have the opportunity to reciprocate and invite Dor Hadash members to Toronto. I am grateful!

 

Maja Buium

My most profound moment was when I spoke with the caretaker. He has been working in the synagogue for 30 years. When he described the scene he witnessed on October 27, he began to cry and the congregants circled around him and hugged him.

The experience was made even more memorable by the surroundings in which it occurred. A venerable Reform temple, Rodef Shalom, has provided a temporary home to Dor Hadash. It is a cathedral-like structure with a sanctuary that seats close to 1000 people, a nearly hundred foot vaulted ceiling, and extraordinary stained glass windows. As you looked out from the bima, there is an enormous stained glass window, fittingly quoting Psalm 34:  “Seek peace and pursue it.”  It might have been overwhelming, but the warmth and love that permeated the space made it cozy:

 

Allyne Neepom:

One of the members of Dor Chadash said that the sanctuary felt empty before we joined them. When we were there it felt full. Towards the end of Shabbat, I felt that the members of Dor Chadash felt lighter.

 

 

 

 

 

The hurt and damage is profound. We spent some time visiting Squirrel Hill because we had been told that every store on the main thoroughfare had signs of support in their windows. For me personally, that was a beacon of hope, reminding me to focus on the strength of a community and that, even with the rise of antisemitism and racism, there is hope and support. These pictures give you an idea of what we saw. Most moving of all was a series of posters in a shoe store window. Every year the owner displays work from the The Children’ Institute of Pittsburgh, a facility for kids with physical and mental challenges. This year, the kids chose the theme of peace and unity. Their drawings say it all:

And here are some more reflections on the impact of our time together.  A common theme is that this was a start, not just a one-off encounter.

 

 

 

Debra Eklove:

The trip to Pittsburgh was a reminder how extending a hand helps the receiver and the giver. Dor Hadash members, many times, to groups and individuals, voiced how appreciative they were for our visit. They welcomed us warmly and asked for our communities' relationship to continue. Darchei Noam members got to experience a new congregation and felt gratitude and pride for the Rabbi, David and Debbie for leading our participation in services.

 

I enjoyed the services, which were a bit more "conservative" than ours; the inclusion of familiar and new melodies was heartwarming, and recognition those with birthdays to celebrate (yeah Miriam) was charming. Spending time with my travel mates and our members there was also a special perk of going together.

 

May we all grow from strength to strength.

 

Liane Sharkey:

What an honour to contribute in such a concrete way - a powerful, meaningful initiative that we could see was welcomed and appreciated. All of the Dor Hadash congregants were so warmly welcoming to us - our presence made them feel loved and supported. Those of us who were provided home hospitality had the opportunity for additional, more personal interactions and conversations with our hosts. We are blessed to have been able to participate in this mitzvah.

 

Miriam Bester:

It was such a poignant trip....We were welcomed with open arms, the same arms we embraced and shared our love and strength with. Every conversation included thanks for our being there, as if we needed to be thanked. 

 

Although many many thousands of cards and letters were received, physically being there and davening together with David's music, Debbie's story and Rabbi Tina's eloquent Divrei Torah was so healing. On top of all that, her session after kiddush, though not "therapeutic," was cathartic and soul lifting. I asked one of the older congregants how many groups had come to support them, and he said, "You are the first." Kudos to Rabbi Tina for facilitating this opportunity for us all to live "v'ahavta le rayecha camocha". Friendships were started and how wonderful would it be to welcome Dor Hadash to Darchei Noam to continue them.

 

 

Lee Anne Gallant:

This was an amazing and profoundly intense experience. We were received with such warmth by our hosts and felt honoured to be a part of this Shabbat. I was hoping to plan a reciprocal invitation at DN for our new friends from Pittsburgh.

In fact Dor Hadash will likely make a visit to Toronto some time in the spring. We will announce the dates when they are finalized. The connection and the healing can continue. Thanks again to Rabbi Tina, David and Debbie for your leadership to have started us on this journey.

Fri, 14 May 2021 3 Sivan 5781