Bearings: Navigating Life-as-Ministry
Special Issue: Tree of Life Massacre | November 2018

On October 27, 2018, a man walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in the largely Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There, fueled by rabid anti-Semitic and xenophobic right-wing rage, he took the lives of eleven worshippers: Joyce Fineberg (75), Richard Gottried (65), Rose Mallinger (97), Jerry Rabinowitz (66), brothers Cecil (59) and David (54) Rosenthal, spouses Bernice (84) and Sylvan (86) Simon, Daniel Stein (74), Melvin Wax (87), and Irving Younger (69). For this special issue of Bearings, we invited Joan Latchaw, a poet and professor of English composition at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, who lived for many years near Tree of Life, to share reflections on this heinous tragedy. Joan’s “May Their Memory Be a Blessing: A Prayer of Hope after the Tree of Life Massacre” takes a path through grief marked by Jewish traditions of remembrance that lead to hope. And an introduction by Elizabeth Drescher to Gerald Stern’s poem, “The Dancing,” invites consideration of the complex, conflicted path from grief to hope. We also share a piece from our archives by Jamie Wooten that offers a prophetic challenge to those who would preach truth to power.

From the Editor

The Tree of Life Massacre

A Special Issue of Bearings

On October 27, 2018, a man walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in the predominantly Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Mr. Roger's actual neighborhood, as media reports like to point out. There, fueled by rabid anti-Semitic and xenophobic right-wing rage, he took the lives of eleven worshippers: Joyce Fineberg (75), Richard Gottried... Read more
Featured Article

May Their Memory Be a Blessing

A Prayer of Hope after the Tree of Life Massacre

It was a damp and windy February day in 1991 when I walked those few solemn blocks. With trepidation I swung open the heavy door and for the first time entered a beautiful but cavernous space. As I slowly made my way down the aisle, about twelve men, some quite elderly, approached me with great chesed, loving-kindness. I immediately burst into tears, and before... Read more
Creative Insights

Oh God of Mercy, Oh Wild God

Dancing from Grief to Possibility

The poet Gerald Stern (b. 1925) had much in common with the 11 members of Tree of Life Synagogue who were murdered on October 27. He was raised by immigrant parents in a Jewish household not far from the synagogue, in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. And, like most of those who died, his life was shaped in complex ways by the experience of living through... Read more
From Our Archives

Beyond Prophetic Rhetoric

Jesus and Justice in Practice

It’s not news to say that this has been a crazy, rancorous election season—perhaps the most ugly in modern history, many pundits claim. Maybe. But when I reflect back on earlier election cycles, there seems to have been plenty of media-infused hostility that we tend to mute in our nostalgic remembrance. The 2008 election of “hope and change,” for instance, was... Read more