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a portrait of healing

08/09/2023 04:13:43 PM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Much of my thoughts this year have been focused on after the trial, specifically to answer the question: How do we heal? Would it be comparable to the processes of the past four years and nine months? Would it be similar yet different? How do I start it? And ultimately, will we ever be fully healed?

As Judge Colville pronounced the sentence last Thursday, one could feel the sigh of relief that this ordeal was finally over. Our club hugged each other and wept. I had this sort of aimless feeling with the nagging “Now what” on my mind. We gathered for our final lunch together, and I must pause to share something beautiful and incredibly Pittsburgh. Local food establishments have been providing lunch every day of the trial for us at no cost. That translates to nine weeks of meals, approximately 45 lunches for a few dozen people, graciously donated out of kindness. What a remarkable and generous gesture.

I had not attended the penalty phase of the trial while the defense was offering testimony on 112 mitigating factors, as I had heard the list read by Judge Colville earlier, and knew myself well enough to recognize that this would minimally upset me, possibly do more. Instead, I worked on creating what I called “A Service of Healing”. I possessed a number of resources and found others as well. I guess that I stubbornly was clinging to the feeling deep down that the best thing to do after the trial concluded was the begin the healing process. Ultimately the timing was apt, as the trial concluded on Thursday, even though there was a press conference on the previous day. In another bookend moment, the place that we first gathered after the massacre was the same place that we gathered at the conclusion of the trial.

We were in the process of finishing this chapter of our book, turning to a new, white page with nothing written. The entire experience has been about creating a narrative that has never existed for the Jewish community of the United States. What was most powerful for me in the aftermath of these years is the sum of the experience. Police and paramedics ran towards the gunfire to save us. FBI meticulously processed the scene, gathered all of the evidence, and presented a massive amount of material for the prosecution. The US Attorneys crafted an impressive case on behalf of the United States government. Twelve jurors, fellow Americans, deliberated with due seriousness. In the end, the system supported our rights as Jews to worship in freedom and security, and the nature of the crimes was so heinous that the maximum penalty was appropriate. Our long history as a people has not been one where the mechanisms of justice defended us. As horrific as 10.27 was, the conclusion was reassuring.

Fast forward to the end of Friday evening services. People continued to hug one another and the crowd slowly began to disperse, but not completely. More hugging ensued, particularly amongst our club. We share a powerful bond, and it was evident as people remained for 90 more minutes. I took a step back to take it all in. People were smiling and laughing, something rarely observed these past months.  It was an incredibly profound moment. I was witnessing healing. Words failed me. They all hugged me as they left. My healing had begun.

Sun, September 24 2023 9 Tishrei 5784