PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The start of Hannukah is taking on even greater significance this year, and nowhere more so than in Pittsburgh and at Tree Of Life Synagogue.
It was five weeks ago when 11 congregants were killed there while worshiping after a gunmen came in firing shots and spouting anti-Semitic words of hate.
Hundreds were in attendance Sunday night for this special Menorah lighting service outside the synagogue.
One speaker said this place and the people there are dedicating themselves to a new world and to creating the kind of community where hope and love are truly stronger than hate.
“For me, [this will be] a Hanukkah that will be unforgettable. It came nearly 30 days after a terrible tragedy that occurred here at this building,” Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, of the New Light Congregation, said.
A remembrance first for police, first responders, victims and loved ones who were at the synagogue the day of the shooting, and then gratitude for the opportunity to reflect on what Hanukkah symbolizes with its eight days of lights — a miracle.
Many say in a miraculous twist of fate, a gunmen brought everyone together in love.
“It’s very nice to see all the different parts of the community band together and celebrate a Jewish holiday we all have in common,” Chaya Teich, of Brooklyn, said.
“We can take a lesson that this is the Tree of Life Synagogue and the Menorah, significantly, has its branches that branch outwards, not inwards. It doesn’t curve inwards. It branches outwards. And so too the light of the Tree of Life is just like the Menorah where it branches outwards and it spreads its lights onto the people that flock to it. Interestingly, the synagogue has another name … which means the light of happiness,” Simcha Teich, of Brooklyn, said.
No one understands that need for happiness quite like Joe Charney. He witnessed the shooting inside the synagogue.
“We are born, we laugh and we die. There’s nothing that serious to stop me from laughing because I know that we will prevail at some time if we keep our senses and stop hating each other,” he said.
The night was filled with hugs and songs. Entire families came out and brought their children, giving the sense that this was very much a needed new beginning at Tree Of Life for the beginning of Hanukkah.