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How Lessons from Harlam Inspired Me to Give Back After Pittsburgh

Please note that this blog is about the shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue and discusses topics that may be upsetting to some.

By Becky W.

The horrific shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 28th was a tragedy, especially for Jews around the world, as 11 of our people were murdered for trying to pray. It was an act of hatred we thought our world had overcome. The event made the Jewish people come together and become an even stronger community. This act of anti-Semitism could have happened in any community, but it unfortunately happened in a city close to my family’s heart. My mom was raised in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and spent many Shabbatot at Tree of Life synagogue. My dad did his medical training in Pittsburgh, attending Tree of Life for seven years. I have been to the Tree of Life synagogue myself for simchot (joyous occasions).

The congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue were trying to have a meaningful Shabbat experience. Through my Shabbat experiences at camp and at home, I know what this is like. I could not imagine Shabbat in a holy place that I love getting destroyed by gunshots. This is what led me to take action, as I realized that this act of hatred and antisemitism could have happened to me. The majority of the people in the Tree of Life synagogue were wearing kippot. A kippah symbolizes the fact God is with a person at all times. It is also a way to show that one is a proud Jew. I thought it was important for Jewish individuals to wear kippot to honor the 11 victims who can no longer wear them.

At Camp Harlam, we are taught to be proud Jews and to love Judaism with all our heart and soul. Judaism surrounds me everywhere in my life. Throughout my Jewish school, camp, my family, and my synagogue, Judaism is apparent. I thought a kippah was the perfect vehicle to raise money and give back to the Pittsburgh community because kippot show the antisemitic people in this world that no act of hatred will destroy the Jewish people. We will continue to express our Jewish identity no matter what obstacle is put in our way. I instantly acknowledged that Pittsburgh was going to need some rebuilding that they could not complete alone. I combined the two ideas of giving back to Pittsburgh and proudly wearing a kippah into one project. I am selling Stronger Than Hate kippot with all proceeds donated to Jewish Family & Community Services of Pittsburgh. They are providing support to people who have been traumatized by the massacre and are also donating money to the Tree of Life synagogue to help rebuild their community.

At Harlam, we have seven middot (character traits) that we work on, which influenced my decision to design and sell kippot. I thought about one Camp Harlam middah in particular, Acharayut, when thinking about a project and organization to support. Acharayut is the value of thinking about others. Additionally, the Jewish life programs at camp have taught me the importance of advocacy. The project I have organized is a way for me to advocate for my beliefs. I would really appreciate your support of this project. Visit the online ordering form for additional information and to order your kippah. Camp Harlam has been an extremely supportive community over the past seven years and I know that this will not be any different. Thank you all in advance for your support.

Becky is a Harlamite from Allentown, PA. She was a K’far Noar camper in the summer of 2018.

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