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The Ground Beneath Us Is Very Hard

“The ground beneath us is very hard.”  That was our big learning as we began our gardening work today at East End Cooperative Ministries (EECM) in East Liberty. The ground beneath us is very hard because of the dry heat we have been experiencing for too many days to count. The ground beneath us is very hard because of the harsh realities of racism and privilege that …

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“You are a part of me I do not yet know.”

I recently learned this moral and spiritual truth by reading it in See No Stranger, by Valarie Kaur, a civil rights activist and spiritual leader at the forefront of progressive change. I continue to learn this truth along my journey of meeting others who are a part of me I do not yet know. PART 1 – A Pastor, Imam and Rabbi: For the past 6 months, I …

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Neighbor is a moral concept.

The death of George Floyd and the protests across America that followed have been a sobering reminder of how deep our society’s wounds really are.  As I reflect on this tragedy, I am reminded just why we created the Center for Loving Kindness three years ago and the enduring Jewish values universally applicable to love your neighbor as yourself.   We do this in a non-partisan …

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I am on an Anxiety Roller Coaster

June 2, 2020 Once again, far too quickly, frequently and painfully, the curtains covering systemic racism have been pulled back and we see that which is too painful to look at and acknowledge.  The inequitable impact of COVID19 on low income communities and communities of Color is painful enough.  And yet there is more.  The series of injustices perpetrated against members of the Black community in …

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A Message from the Center for Loving Kindness

The JCC Pittsburgh Center For Loving Kindness was founded in August 2017 in response to the violent, racist and anti-Semitic march in Charlottesville Virginia. We gathered our interfaith and interracial community on the anniversary of the August 1963 March of Washington to make a declaration.  More than 200 spiritual leaders signed it. We believe the events of this past week serve as a reminder of the importance of that …

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It Could Be You!  You have an UPstander inside of you

June 2020 It could be you!  That’s right.  Don’t look to the right or the left, in front of you or behind you for someone else to stand UP and make a difference.  You have the ability to be an UPstander in your own right. It really is quite simple.  Take the East End Cooperative Ministries (EECM) located in East Liberty.  Just read Carole Bailey’s words: "Since becoming …

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Practicing Kindness and Social Distancing

I just finished editing our church’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. It has taken me awhile to complete it because I keep receiving one email and text after another canceling events and engagements. Our church members' responses range from extreme denial (“It’s a hoax”) to extreme concern. At this point no one is panicked – yet. But we are taking precautions as a congregation to …

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“From Caring Comes Courage,” and the Courage We Need Comes From Knowing We Are Standing Together, as One Community and One People

The Heinz Endowment’s President Grant Oliphant shared some heartening thoughts about the power of community that we want to reiterate. We would like to thank him for his compassionate leadership in this difficult time. You can read his entire blog post here. “It is important for us all to remember that this moment will pass. Those of us who have been around a while know that. …

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Coronavirus Has Not Reached Pittsburgh, but Fear and Racism are Spreading

Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched anti-Asian sentiment spike not just around the country as China fights to contain the coronavirus on the other side of the world, but right here in Pittsburgh, in the city I call home. The panic about a sudden, deadly virus can be understood and even expected. But this panic has exposed a deep-seated xenophobia in the West, and with …

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Campaigns, Civility and Conversation

First, a confession: I am a news junkie, a Twitter addict and a political wonk. It comes from my years of working in TV news in Washington, DC. It used to be part of my job. Now it’s just part of me. I left DC and moved home to Pittsburgh for many reasons. One being how difficult it was to have a civil discussion in what …

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We are still dreaming. Let’s ensure every person is counted

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” As we celebrate the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his dream that every person be judged for their character and not the color of their skin …

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Reflecting on World Kindness Day and Planning for February’s Random Acts of Kindness Day

Although I have only been in Pittsburgh for two years, I have come to identify with and take pride in being a Pittsburgher. When I first arrived in Pittsburgh, I was overwhelmed by the sense of community and openness as a new resident and college student. I am a Master’s in Social Work student at the University of Pittsburgh, specializing in Community Organizing and Social Action …

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Shining Light on that “They Lived”

I Lived, We Live: What Did We Miss? was an exhibit about the community of Hazelwood organized by Hazelwood residents and presented last winter here at the JCC's American Jewish Museum. While the origins of our relationship stem from loss and trauma, our two communities have forged bonds, shared experiences and built meaningful friendships. Center of Life’s Geraldine Massey shares her story about losing her …

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An Unprecedented Year

I distinctly remember two phone calls my wife and I received shortly before 10 a.m. that day. “Are you in shul? The street is blocked by police cars,” the congregant inquired. We replied that we were out of town and not at synagogue. A minute later the phone rang again. It was Sam Schachner, president of Tree of Life, who informed us of an active …

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JCC Staff Reflection in Commemoration of October 27, 2018 – One Year Later

At 5:30 am this morning, we reopened our doors with renewed commitment to live up to our mission -- for you, for our neighbors and for our community. From last October 27 until this October 27, we strived to live up to our mission: We nurtured people with hugs and kisses and hugs and hugs and hugs… with puppy love and handshakes and listening ears and …

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The Concept of Forgiveness

When Rabbi Ron Symons invited me back to Pittsburgh for Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement, to worship with our Pittsburgh neighbors and to participate in a community event at the JCC, I did not hesitate to say yes. The slogan “From Parkland to Pittsburgh, Stronger Together” has heartfelt meaning for me, as our two communities forged an unbreakable bond when we first came together …

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NEIGHBOR IS A MORAL CONCEPT!

As we turn the page on the calendar from Summer to Fall, from vacation to the academic year, from the old Jewish year 5779 to the new Jewish year 5780, the work of the Center for Loving Kindness are all the more relevant to the lives we lead in and around Pittsburgh.  Planned throughout 2016 and 2017 and launched on August 28, 2017, to commemorate …

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The Miracle of the Present Moment

As we conclude our second day of school in the Early Childhood Development Center, I want to thank our families for the joyful beginning we’ve had together. We are never without our challenges or opportunities, and I’m struck by how collaboratively our educators and our parents have worked in learning and navigating through the first couple of days together. I am proud to be part …

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Jason’s Journey: Overweight and Overcoming It!

Absolutely Losing It (part one) - September 9, 2019 CHAPTER 1: The 5 Do’s of My Diet - June 20, 2019 Ideas for a title for the series: Thriving…Not Just Surviving I’m Absolutely Losing It Werking It & Working Out (my favorite) I have never had a super healthy relationship with food. I say never, and I pretty much mean never. I have definitely gotten better over the years, but …

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A Community Conversation on Teen Mental Health

According to a recent report released by the American Psychological Association, mental health issues among young adults have risen significantly over the last decade and social media may be one reason why. The research shows a sharp increase in negative psychological symptoms for young adults born in 1995 or later, otherwise known as iGen. The spike in symptoms occurred in 2011, concurrent with the timing of …

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A Message of Healing and Resilience

March 24, 2019 – Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh As we continue to absorb the verdict in the Michael Rosfeld homicide case, the numbing impact on our community is palpable. The JCC’s Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement continues to affirm that diverse people and communities can learn from each other’s grief and triumphs, be comforted and strengthened by each other, act in solidarity against …

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A Purim Message For Today

Bigotry, hatred and racism of all forms is wrong no matter what continent it occurs on and no matter the victims it claims. The Jewish community has known this for thousands of years.  After all, this week we are celebrating the victory of the Jewish community of Persia over the hatred state-sanctioned supremacy of its day.  When Queen Esther hesitated to stand up and call it …

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Today, all I have are tears. Tomorrow, maybe we can work to find a solution.

The universe cracks. That’s how you feel when your beloved and peaceful family member is violently torn from this world while they are at prayer.  That’s how more that 40 families feel right now half a world away.  I know because only 6 months ago I was in their shoes.  It’s like I am in a cruel time machine and it’s stuck on a repeating …

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21st Century Inclusion at JCC Camps

Since February 2009, the JCC's Emma Kaufmann Camp has answered the call to action of Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month, a unified national initiative to raise disability awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion in Jewish communities and programs worldwide. Never has focusing on this issue been more important than it is today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in …

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MORE LIGHT!

Last night I stood in appreciation of the lights of the fully lit chanukiyah, Chanukah menorah.  Having lit 2 chanukiyot in our front window, Barbara and I basked in the light of 36 flickering flames including their reflections.  The lighting of the candles did what it was supposed to do: inform people outside of our house that we celebrate the miracle of light at this …

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This Chanukah, Celebrate the Community We Aspire to Build

Redefining neighbor from a geographic term to moral concept On Sunday night, members of the Jewish community around the world will begin our annual celebration of Chanukah.  It is the time honored commemoration of the victory of the Maccabees in the 2nd century BCE over the Assyrian Greeks and their allies who wanted to create a homogeneous cultural and religious community in which diversity was neither tolerated …

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“This day seals your destiny as American citizens – as patriots.”

In advance of the exhibit, American Patriot: Photographs by Charlee Brodsky, Poetry by Jim Daniels, now on display in the The American Jewish Museum at the JCC, Melissa Hiller, AJM Director, was the keynote speaker at the Naturalization Ceremony held at the Frick Environmental Center. Following is her speech: You stand here on this rainy but beautiful Fall day because of your fortitude, bravery, courage, your belief in yourself, …

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Our Kids Deserve Our Respectful Debate

These are extraordinary times. As noted in the Jewish Chronicle’s June 21, 2018, opinion piece, “The purpose of a newspaper,” the more polarized opinions become, the more we need lively, respectful debate over issues that are important to us. I couldn’t agree more. Respectful debate between people seems harder and harder these days.  A 2016 NORC Center for Public Affairs Research study found that that 74 …

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I Need Shabbat This Week

I need Shabbat this week because all I have heard is people talking over and through each other. I need Shabbat this week because all I have seen are images of children separated from their parents. I need Shabbat this week because all the values about family and human dignity I thought were foundational to our American way of life are being challenged. I need Shabbat this week …

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What Does Israel Mean to Me?

I vividly remember the endless bus trip from Jerusalem to Kibbutz Hazorea in 1985.  I didn’t know a soul, spoke fewer than a dozen Hebrew words, and had never traveled overseas. But I had a longing to experience Israel, to learn the language and connect to people on their terms – not mine. The journey took me from the kibbutz to community service work in Ashkelon …

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Updating Our Mission Statement

Over the past year, our lay and professional leadership went through the thoughtful and intentional process of updating our Mission Statement. Our goal was simple – to help our members, guests, professional staff, donors, partners and other stakeholders know more than what we do, but WHY we exist and who we aspire to be. Mission statements are more than just assemblies of words. Each word has weight and …

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Passover is All About Time Travel

Each and every year when we pull our wine stained haggadot off of the shelf and place them on our beautifully set Passover tables, we have two options. The first is the basic plan:  Read through the haggadah, go through the rituals, eat the symbolic foods because this is the way that we have done it for years and we think that we should just maintain …

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International Women’s Day – #PressForProgress

As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, and Women's History Month during March, we understand the phrase #PRESSFORPROGRESS is needed more than ever.  We live in a world in which women’s voices have been suppressed when it comes to reporting sexual harassment, domestic violence and sexual assault in all areas of society.  Our contemporary conversations are a mirror of conversations and attitudes that have been going …

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JCC Camps: Preparing for Life’s Journeys

C O N N E C T I O N S • V A L U E S • G R O W T H • F U N This is our responsibility: To prepare the next generation for the journeys that lie ahead. We hope that every journey will be fair and just. We hope that every journey will be filled with joy and happiness. We hope that …

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Celebrating the Lunar New Year

You might be wondering why the JCC opens its doors to the Lunar New Year celebration. Let me begin by sharing a metaphor I just learned on a podcast by my teacher Rabbi Larry Hoffman of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.  While discussing the tension between being particular (having concern for and being interested in the Jewish community) and universal (having concern …

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Giddy-up y’all: It’s Time for Big Night

We don't want to spill too many beans but if you're wondering why we're making hay about this ole Big Night, jest sit a spell and read on. Big Night...well, it's about you and us. It's our hoedown where we can hoot and holler a big “thank you” for all your support for the JCC. It's your support that helps the JCC provide scholarships that help individuals of all backgrounds, abilities, religious affiliations …

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Tu B’Shevat – How can we celebrate nature and Israel in the cold of winter?

In Israel, another new year will soon be celebrated. Tu B'Shevat, the "New Year of the Trees," is observed on the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Sh'vat. Tu B'Shevat is not mentioned in the Torah. According to scholars, the holiday was originally an agricultural festival, corresponding to the beginning of spring in Israel. As in the case with many Jewish observances, a critical historical …

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People on The Fringes

For thousands if years now, Jewish wisdom has been teaching us that we are not permitted to ignore the needs of the most vulnerable among us.  The authors of the Torah and the Hebrew Prophets that came after them went to extra efforts to remind us that we have a responsibility to treat the orphan, widow and stranger with the same amount of respect that …

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The Conversation Continues – Immigrants’ Stories, Faithful Responses

While our event on Thursday came to an end, the CONVERSATION about strangers, immigrants and refugees continues.  Dr. David Saenz posted this comment on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette web page and asked that we post it on the JCC website. Dr. Saenz began his life as an migrant farmer returning to the US a dozen times before gaining permanent residency.  He articulates a vision of American community that …

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Shabbat is The First Labor Law

I was struck by this Samuel Rosenberg Image entitled 'Rest' in the spring when Melissa Hiller, Director of our American Jewish Museum, brought me to the Heinz History Center to see the exhibit "The Gift of Art". "For 100 years, the Friends of Art has purchased art to be given to the Pittsburgh Public Schools and enjoyed by tens of thousands of school children. Seeking to …

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Moral Compass

Elie Weisel taught us: One of the Just Men came to Sodom, determined to save its inhabitants from sin and punishment. Night and day he walked the streets and markets protesting against greed and theft, falsehood and indifference. In the beginning, people listened and smiled ironically. Then they stopped listening; he no longer even amused them. The killers went on killing, the wise kept silent, as …

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