You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Remembering Those Who Perished at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue (Guest Column)

Says fellow congregant and Rostrum Records founder Benjy Grinberg: "We need to stand in alliance against this hate."

I am a Pittsburgher. I grew up in Squirrel Hill, an amazing, diverse and accepting neighborhood. And Tree of Life, the synagogue that was attacked last weekend, is my synagogue.

To be exact, Tree of Life is a building that houses three different congregations: Tree of Life, Dor Hadash, and New Light. The huge synagogues that were erected decades ago mainly to accommodate the baby boomer generation are now too large for many congregations to maintain. Therefore, many have come together under one roof to make it sustainable.

I joined Tree of Life years ago when I moved back to Pittsburgh from New York in the late aughts. It was a particularly religious phase of my life and I enjoyed going just about every weekend that I was in town. Everyone there was supportive of my work in music and I felt inspired by the intelligence and creativity of the members.

I would split my time between the intimate service and Torah study that Dor Hadash provided and the slightly larger, though still intimate, service that Tree of Life had. At Dor Hadash, my uncle was a regular, as was his friend, Jerry Rabinowitz, who was always ready with a joke to make everyone laugh. Dan Leger, a family friend, would often lead the service. Dan converted to Judaism many years ago and is more knowledgeable about the religion than most people that were born Jewish.

I would often leave a little early to catch the end of the Tree of Life service, where my dad was. Irving Younger would hand me a prayer book as I came in and he never made me feel guilty for walking in so late. He’d greet everyone with a warm hello. Brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal were always there, fixtures of Tree of Life and of the greater Jewish community. The Rabbi would often make a joke with Rose Mallinger, who was much younger than her 97 years would imply. It was a warm congregation of people who loved their community and cherished their Judaism.

Jerry, Irving, Cecil, David, and Rose were all killed this weekend. Dan is in critical condition in the hospital. My childhood friend, Joe Stein, lost his wonderful father, Danny, in the attack. And five others whom I did not get to know tragically lost their lives as well.

When I heard there was an active shooter at Tree of Life, I felt helpless here in Los Angeles. I reached out to family and stay glued to the TV and social media to find out more information. I was incredibly grateful to know that my uncle wasn’t in the building at the time and that my dad was at a different synagogue.

So many things kept running through my head. What if the shooter had chosen the synagogue where my dad was? What if my uncle had been there? What did the shots actually sound like? Is my son safe at his Jewish preschool?

Amidst the concern and sadness, I took my Star of David necklace out from under my shirt to make sure it was visible. Funny how the smallest things can feel like real acts of defiance these days. I am Jewish and I’m proud and I’m not trying to hide it. I stand with everyone else who has been persecuted throughout history.

This isn’t new. We minorities are used to being threatened and attacked. It’s been going on for thousands of years. At times it’s as horrid as what happened this weekend in Pittsburgh, or what happened last week to Vickie Lee Jones and Maurice Stallard, who lost their lives while grocery shopping because they were black.

At other times, the hate is less violent but still frightening. When I was in high school I played basketball for the Jewish Community Center team. When traveling to outside neighborhoods for games, it was not unheard of for people to throw pennies at us on the court or yell derogatory words.

Thankfully, the Jewish people are strong. And the Pittsburgh community is strong. But it’s going to take more than that, because, ultimately, this is not just about a Jewish community in Pennsylvania. Bigotry of any kind affects all of us. These tragedies are happening in all of our communities. If someone hates Jewish people, they likely also hate black people or gay people or latinos or refugees. We need to stand in alliance against this hate. There is an increased strength in togetherness. I’ve got your back. Do you have mine?

Just as the various congregations in the Tree of Life building banded together to survive, so too must we.

Benjy Grinberg is the founder of Rostrum Records and an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

More Music

  • Jim Gosnell

    APA Claims Texts Were Fabricated in Lurid Sex Harassment Suit

    A former assistant at APA filed a lurid sexual harassment complaint on Wednesday alleging that a partner at the firm sent her graphic text messages and threatened to have her fired when she refused his advances. The assistant, identified in the suit only as Jane Doe, alleges that top management fostered a “toxic, pervasive and [...]

  • Logic Launches BobbyBoy Records as Joint

    Logic Launches BobbyBoy Records as Joint Venture With Def Jam

    Grammy-nominated rapper Logic — aka Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, aka Bobby Hall —has announced a joint venture with Def Jam Recordings for his new label, BobbyBoy Records, which was formerly known as Elysium Records. The imprint’s initial artist roster is comprised of singer-songwriter John Lindahl, Damian Lemar Hudson (featured on “Black Spiderman,” from Logic’s RIAA platinum 2017 album, “Everybody”); Big Lenbo (featured on two previous Logic albums); [...]

  • Adam Lambert Queen

    Adam Lambert on What's Changed for Gay Artists Since His 'American Idol' Run

    Ten years ago, Adam Lambert burst onto the music scene in a blaze of guy-liner, hairspray and sexual ambiguity as America’s most unlikely “Idol.” But while he had the rock star look down and a soaring voice that seduced the hard-to-impress Simon Cowell, Lambert lost. Or did he? While many blamed homophobia for his runner-up [...]

  • Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes, Liz TrinneariHeartRadio

    Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello Tease Footage from Their 'Senorita' Video Shoot

    Camila Cabello’s heart, or commercial instincts, may still be south of the border, judging from the title of her new duet with Shawn Mendes, “Señorita,” which hits digital services at midnight Thursday night. Prior to making the announcement Wednesday, both performers had busied themselves on social media teasing fans about their first collaboration since “I [...]

  • Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman Starring in

    Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman Starring in 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' for Netflix

    Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman will star in the movie adaptation of the play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” for Netflix. George C. Wolfe (“Lackawanna Blues”) will direct from a script by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, based on the award-winning play by August Wilson. Other cast include Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) and Michael Potts. Denzel [...]

  • 'Dreamgirls' Uk Premiere at the Odeon

    Mathew Knowles Says Beyonce's Career Benefited, Kelly Rowland's Suffered From Skin Tone Bias

    Beyonce’s father, Mathew Knowles, addressed the perceptions of skin tone outside of and even within the African American community in an interview with SiriusXM, saying that his daughter’s career was “affected” by her lighter skin, and that the effect might have been the opposite for Destiny’s Child bandmate Kelly Rowland. In the interview with “The [...]

  • Vivendi Chairman of the Supervisory Board

    Vivendi 'Not in a Hurry' to Sell Universal Music Group

    Yannick Bollore, chairman of the supervisory board of Universal Music Group parent company Vivendi, implicitly extended the projections for the sale of UMG by around six months in a interview today. He said Vivendi is “not in a hurry” to wrap the sale and is “very confident” it will find the right partner to purchase [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content