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A Community's Love Lifts Heavy Hearts in Mourning

I am writing this through glassy eyes and roaring emotions.

It’s been a few days since the killings in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood but the pain for the families of the 11 peaceful worshippers, and for those injured, including the brave superheroes who rushed into the danger to save others, will not dissipate any time soon.

I owe it to all of them to express my thoughts in this forum because this happened in the community my family calls home.

The fact is I have encountered hate from time to time in my own meetings with clients. Some of the hate is racial, some is more general. I try to call it out, but I have to admit I have not been as vocal about it as I could have been.

Why haven’t I been vocal? Was I afraid to lose a potential client? Was I afraid of upsetting them? Was I afraid that something might happen to me or my firm?

Regardless of the reason, it made me feel like a coward. My dad, God bless his soul, would have disowned me. He constantly called out bigots when they said anti-Jewish or anti-minority comments and kicked them out of the store where he worked.

It was only a couple of years ago that I started telling my clients not to contact me on Friday night through Saturday night, the Jewish Sabbath. I told them I am Jewish and I spend the Sabbath with my family and friends, going to the synagogue for prayer, and observing God’s commandment.

The reaction of virtually all of my clients was one of approval. Did I lose clients? I don’t know, but if I lost clients for that reason, good riddance.

My special needs adult son and I take long walks every Sabbath before and after going to the synagogue. One of the routes we take goes right by the Tree of Life Synagogue, where the congregants were shot down. My family is very familiar with Tree of Life, as it was my wife’s synagogue while growing up. When my synagogue was under repair due to a fire, Tree of Life was home for our services for a year. It is where my oldest child celebrated becoming a Bar Mitzvah.

It is haunting to need a police escort to take my son home or to pick him up at the house where he lives with flashing blue and red lights all around us. How have we gotten to this point? Why do our leaders spew hate against opponents or immigrants or people of color? Let’s face it; unless you are a native American, you are an immigrant.

Why do we give tacit approval by not calling out those who want to hate? I will no longer do that.

If you are coming to see me, come in peace. Peace for you. Peace for me. Peace for all. Realize that what bonds us as diverse Americans is so much stronger than the things that divide us.

I was at an interfaith memorial service this past Sunday for the victims. It was packed inside, so thousands of us stood in the cold rain outside, listening to speakers from every faith, origin and religion. They all spoke of peace and tolerance. I went to the vigil with a heavy heart, and without an umbrella.

When it started to rain, a young woman behind my son and I asked if she could share her umbrella with us to keep us dry. She was Asian. I looked behind us and saw young and old, black, yellow, brown and white, male and female.

They were all sharing umbrellas.

My heart was heavy, but as I looked at the mass of diverse humanity, the weight of my heart was partially lifted by our community. It is a community that came out in solidarity, not just for Jews, but for all of us.

My prayers go out to the families of the ones who didn’t make it. It is those families who have to bear the heavy lifting. Nothing can bring back those who are lost. But to those families, and to all of us, know that hate will not trump love.

Not in my office. Not anywhere.