The shooting that occurred last Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue broke the hearts of every person in this city. The unthinkable tragedy reminds us that there is darkness in the world, but acknowledging that darkness brings us to a path of healing and righteousness as we move forward from the horrific incident. As the week goes on, family members of the deceased are holding funerals for their loved ones. If you are planning on attending any funerals or meeting with any mourners, it is helpful to be familiar with Jewish funeral practices to be respectful to the family members.
After the death of a loved one, immediate family members– such as spouses, parents, children, and siblings– will sit Shiva, or a mourning period for a week. Although a week is the traditional length for Shiva, the family may choose to sit for one to three days, depending on their own practices.
If you are making a Shiva call and visiting the mourners, the mirrors in the house may be shrouded and the family members will be dressed in all black. Making a Shiva call responds to the needs of the mourner and the visit should be focused on their grief and their comfort. For Jewish funerals and Shiva visits, flowers are not customary. Cutting the life cycle of another creature short isn’t viewed as respectful, but gifts in the form of sweets and food for the family are completely appropriate and welcome. It is a good idea to check with the loved ones beforehand to see if they follow a Kosher diet and to stay within those restrictions in your meal preparation. Planting trees in Israel or donating to the deceased’s favorite charity are other appropriate ways to honor their life. If you are a family member, a daily visit to the Shiva is welcomed, although those less close only need to make one visit. It is wise to check with the family before visiting Shiva on a Saturday, as they may be observing Shabbat. Traditional Jewish law does not allow Shiva held on the Holy Day and they may not be welcoming visitors at that time.
Even if you never met any of the victims, this type of tragedy so close in our community can stir emotions in a lot of people and it is okay to be upset or anxious. If you are having prolonged anxious thoughts or depression with the aftermath of the shooting, please seek emotional support from a trusted doctor or counselor. You are not alone. Pittsburgh is stronger united.
For those looking to support the Tree of Life Synagogue and the victims of the shooting, donations can be made in a variety of ways:
Directly to the TOL: https://www.tolols.org/
To the temporary Crisis Center housed at the JCC Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill: https://jccpgh.org/
To the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh: https://jfedpgh.org/our-victims-of-terror