UPDATED 9:30 AM PT — Mon. Dec. 3, 2018
The Pittsburgh synagogue home to Tree of Life is celebrating Hanukkah for the first time since the deadly shooting, where nearly a dozen people died.
The holiday began Sunday with the first-ever public lighting of the menorah, just five-weeks after what is believed to be the worst attack on Jews in U.S. history.
Hundreds of Jews and non-Jews attended the service outside the synagogue, including families who brought their children to pray, sing songs and watch the lighting of the menorah.
“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, worshiper – Brooklyn, N.Y.
The ceremony started by honoring the first responders and police officers who responded to the incident.
The festival of light commemorated the 11 victims of the Squirrel Hill massacre.
Many say an act of hate actually brought the community closer. With the story of the holiday being survival of the Jewish people, even a witness to the shooting said the tragic events will not stop him from living his life.
“We are born, we laugh and we die,” said survivor Joe Charney. “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.”