This is Squirrel Hill to me


November 9, 2018

Sharon Weil

Sharon Weil spoke with Ilana Ivan at the Chabad vigil last Monday evening. This is what she shared.

I have many homes. I'm used to living far from my home, Israel, when a pigua (terror attack) occurs and I walk around in a stupor with my heart aching to be near my loved ones. Many of you here know that ache.

Today, one of my homes and my heart, are broken. Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh.

We moved to Squirrel Hill from Israel with three young children, leaving our family behind. We knew one person when we arrived in this gritty, run-down looking city. When we left five years ago... well, we knew almost everyone.

I know it sounds impossible, but that is what it's like to live in Squirrel Hill. It's a neighborhood where at its center are Forbes and Murray where there are shops, restaurants, grocery stores and dry cleaners. Everything in our life-from school, work, shul, movie theaters, grocery stores, and the library-is within a 15-minute walk from our house. Everything.

This is why everyone truly knows everyone else.

It's an Urban Jewish Community where the JCC on the corner has a clock on its tower with the letters alef, bet, gimel, etc., on its face. That is Squirrel Hill to me.

It's where my son at 12 years old would play outside with his friends and their favorite pastime was playing kick the can in the street... for hours. That is Squirrel Hill to me.

It's where my daughter was so busy reading her book while she walked that she didn't pay attention while crossing the street. An acquaintance of ours saw her. Stopped, and reprimanded her. Then called me to tell let me know. That is Squirrel Hill to me.

It's where you run out of sugar and you have 10 neighbors you can ask. That is Squirrel Hill to me.

On our street, there were 20 homes-six of them had sukkot. The kids would run from one to the other checking them out because they could. That is Squirrel Hill to me.

This is a community where our Chinese neighbors spoke Yiddish and celebrated holidays with us. That is Squirrel Hill to me.

And on Shabbat... We usually went to Beth Shalom, but because the Jewish Community in Squirrel Hill is so fluid, we often chose to go to Temple Sinai or Sha'are Torah or Tree of Life (which was just 4 blocks from our home).

So on Shabbat morning when my phone pinged that there was an active shooter in a Pittsburgh synagogue I knew that we would be impacted because that is Squirrel Hill to me.

Squirrel Hill is like Cheers where "everybody knows your name." It's a community that is so tight knit that this is not "just another shooting." This is a community where we are at most, one degree of separation from every one of the victims.

Today, I am in mourning with K'lal Yisrael. The deaths of the pillars of the Pittsburgh Jewish community-the elders who showed up early, each week, cannot be in vain. It is up to us, in this corner of the world, to ensure that there are good deeds and mitzvot that we can do, in order to drive hatred from our midst.

Sharon F. Weil is director of Programming and Development for Kinneret Council on Aging. She was grateful for the opportunity to speak about a community that she loves so much.


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