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The Concept of Forgiveness

Posted by Ivy Schamis on October 22, 2019

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 in April 2019. The unfortunate circumstances that brought us together do not have to define us, but we must not ignore what happened in both our communities and we must learn from one another, as healing does not occur in a vacuum. We need each other.

When I learned that the topic of the panel at the JCC on Yom Kippur would be Teshuva (atoning for sin in Judaism) and Forgiveness, I really had to question myself and what I could bring to the conversation. I knew I would be in great company with Dan Leger, an injured congregant from Tree of Life Synagogue, and now a friend of ours, and Tim Smith, a pastor from Hazelwood who has experienced so much violence in his community that he is reaching out to neighboring communities in order to heal and make changes together.

It was a profound experience. The Pittsburgh community was not only warm and welcoming but the two synagogues where we prayed and the Jewish Community Center where we all met felt like home.

The JCC provided a space where the community could reflect on the past year and feel hopeful about moving forward. It allowed for conversations that might have otherwise been avoided.

But when Dan Leger talked about finding a middle ground between kindness and justice, it resonated with all 500 friends in that room. When I admitted to everyone that I wanted to stand up and tell the shooter We Love You, because he probably never heard those words, I felt as if everyone there really understood what I meant.

The concept of Forgiveness constitutes one of the most essential fundamentals of the human relationship with God and with each other. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. However personal that may be, we opened a discussion that must not stop at the Pittsburgh JCC. It is one I will take with me wherever I go.

Ivy Schamis is a social studies teacher and survivor, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting, Parkland, Florida

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