Prayers for Pittsburgh

by Sid Goldstein


On Thursday November 1, over 300 people gathered at Temple Emanu-El to pay honor to the 11 people who were brutally murdered in Pittsburgh for the crime of being Jewish. Temple E Rabbi Ken Aronowitz and Sof Ma’arav’s Dina Yoshimi put together a remarkable program to pay tribute to the lives of the eleven who died.


The event had participation from every major Jewish organization in the state. Along with Temple E and Sof, Hadassah, Aloha Jewish Chapel, Oahu Jewish Ohana, Hillel of Hawaii, Chabad of Hawaii and Chevrah Kadisha Kavod all participated in the event. Also in attendance were mayor Kirk Caldwell, Hawaii First Lady Dawn Ige and clergy from Christian churches, Buddhist temples and other assorted religions of the islands.


Prayers were said, poems were read and candles were lit. But the most stirring moments of the event were the testimonials read about the lives of each person shot in Pittsburgh. The dead were not martyrs; they were not symbols. They were real people. This fact was never overlooked during the entire service.  Each testimonial was heartfelt. Each spoke of the victims’ lives, passions, community and cares. Through these testimonials, a listener had a small sense of what the Tree of Life Synagogue Jewish community was like.


The most powerful testimonial came when Doctor Josh Green spoke. Dr. Green did his residency in Pittsburgh. He worked directly under Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. Dr. Rabinowitz was one of the eleven who died at the Tree of Life. Dr. Green spoke passionately of what a remarkable man Jerry Rabinowitz was. He spoke of the early days of the AIDS epidemic when everyone was frightened of the disease. Dr. Rabinowitz held the hands of his AIDS patients, fearing not for his own safety but offering compassion to those afflicted. When the shots rang out at his synagogue, Dr. Rabinowitz was in an alcove doing Torah study. He could have remained safe. Instead, he ran toward the shots, hoping that as a doctor, he might help. He was a true healer to his last.


Our Jewish community of Hawaii owes a big Mahalo to Rabbi Ken and to Dina for putting this thoughtful and healing evening together. Life must always stand up in the face of death. It did on November 1 and all who attended shared a moment that will not be soon forgotten.