At Squirrel Hill school, students shine ‘light into the darkness’ |

At Squirrel Hill school, students shine ‘light into the darkness’

Nathan Duke | For the Tribune-Review
Students at Squirrel Hill's Communit Day School lit 11 candles during a ceremony Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, in honor of the 11 people killed in a shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018.
Nathan Duke | For the Tribune-Review
Students at Squirrel Hill's Community Day School stand outside during a ceremony Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, to honor the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018.
Nathan Duke | For the Tribune-Review
Students attend a prayer ceremony inside Squrril Hills' Community Day School on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. The students wanted to organize a ceremony for the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation on Oct. 27, 2018.

Students and school officials at Squirrel Hill’s Community Day School on Tuesday honored the memory of 11 people killed in a weekend shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation.

Standing in front of a Holocaust-inspired statue, students had a prevailing message: Their community is unified againt hate.

“When you see shootings on the news, you feel sad,” said eighth grader Isaac Weissman-Markowitz. “But when you see it’s in your community, it feels like nothing else. This was a hate crime. This is a country of freedom. We should not let ourselves be pushed down by ignorant people.”

School leaders said eighth-grade students at the Jewish day school put together a plan Monday morning to hold the ceremony. The Oct. 27 mass shooting has been cited as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the nation’s history.

“The kids planned this all on their own,” said Mark Minkus, the head of middle school at Community Day School. “When they see a need, they ask, ‘What can we do?’ We started the day yesterday processing the emotions about what happened over the weekend. They wanted their voices to be heard. We’re unified against hate. Our students are shining a light into the darkness.”

Minkus said some of the school’s eighth-graders knew the victims because members of the class attend a prayer service known as “minyan makers” — which involves praying in a group of 10 people — at Tree of Life on Monday mornings.

“Some of our kids attend that synagogue,” Minkus said. “Thankfully, none of them were there on Saturday.”

Just before 8 a.m. on Tuesday, students and educators took part in a standing-room-only prayer service at the school. It was followed by a program put together by eighth-graders in front of a sculpture at the school that represents the victims of the Holocaust through six million tabs from cans that have been placed into glass blocks. Work on the sculpture—known as Keeping Tabs, which is in the shape of the Star of David—began in 1996, and it was installed in 2012.

“On the day after the shooting, our eighth-graders talked through their grief and fear and said, ‘Let’s act,’” said Avi Baran Munro, the head of school for Community Day.

During the ceremony, students recited “The Star Spangled Banner” and read poems, such as Brenda Poole’s “Changes.” Speakers called on the community to take a stand against hatred and anti-Semitism.

“We are coming together as a community to grieve and begin to heal,” said eighth-grader Gabriella Naveh, who called the shooting “a senseless act of hate.”

Yishai Selig, another eighth-grader, praised the courage of the emergency responders at the scene of the shooting.

“In my opinion, bravery is in every one of us,” Selig said. “Officers who came to assist entered an unknown and dangerous scene they might not have come out of to help people they didn’t know.”

Students lit candles for each of the 11 victims—Irving Younger, Melvin Wax, Rose Mallinger, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Jerry Rabinowitz, Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Daniel Stein and brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal—and gave brief biographies of their lives.

“This past weekend, we lost 11 members of our community to an anti-Semitic incident,” eighth-grader Nealey Barak said. “The events of Sat., Oct. 27, 2018, were a tragedy. [The victims] believed in peace, equality and freedom. Now that they’re gone, we must live up to who they’d want us to be.”

Jeffrey Myers, the rabbi for Tree of Life, told the crowd of about 100 that their support went a long way in the wake of such a horrific incident.

“When I came here this morning, I had no strength,” he said. “You gave me the strength to get through today.”

Nathan Duke is a contributing writer for the Tribune-Review.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.