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 (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 dedicated to the Tree of Life community, to the people of Pittsburgh, and to all people who have been subject to hate-fueled violence, 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. In “Oh God of Mercy, Oh Wild God” we have also shared a short introduction by Elizabeth Drescher to Pittsburgh-born poet Gerald Stern’s “The Dancing” as an expression of the complex, contradictory, and ultimately unresolvable feelings that define events like these and their aftermath. Finally, we’ve turned to our archives for the wisdom of one of our most insightful commentators, Jayme Wooten, whose prescient pre-2016 election article “Beyond Prophetic Rhetoric: Jesus and Justice in Practice,” calls for modes of engaged, activist preaching in what are still “times like these” despite the real risks of challenging seemingly intractable structures of power and speaking boldly against the status quo when it disadvantages the most vulnerable.
Our regular November issue, Ministry on the Edge, will be published later this week. After we’re all done voting.