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The Center for Loving Kindness

We Believe

Throughout the 125 year history of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, we have strived to live our values through our daily actions.  We aspire to fulfill our mission by nurturing people and connecting communities, each day, through every age, inspired by Jewish values for every person regardless of race, skin tone, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, economic status, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, special needs or citizenship status.

We created the Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement in the summer of 2017 as the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville revealed long-held stark realities of hate throughout our country.  We defined our charge as “Strengthening the fabric of community by amplifying the long-held values of ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ and ‘Do not stand idle while your neighbor bleeds’ while redefining ‘neighbor’ from geographic term to moral concept.”  That mandate has guided our work through very challenging times over these past three years, including our response to the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States in our own city.

We begin the Jewish New Year 5781 at a time when racial bias, anti-Blackness, racism, systemic racism, and historic and current societal inequities are being denounced with hopes for long lasting systemic change.  We make the following statement, committed to learning and action within our JCC community and throughout our Greater Pittsburgh community, and to invite others into the work.

  • TZELEM ELOHIM – Divine Image (uniqueness and dignity)

We believe that Black Lives Matter as an explicit expression of the most fundamental value of human potential.

  • B’RIT – Covenant (belonging and commitment)

We engage in this work as partners with sibling organizations across our region and are guided by organizations led by and serving communities most negatively impacted by racial bias, anti-Blackness, racism, systemic racism and historic and current societal inequities.  We engage in this work knowing that the Jewish community and the JCC are made up of neighbors with multiple identities.

  • K’DUSHAH – Holiness (intentionality and presence)

We are focused and present to address the issues at hand for the work we do within our JCC community and the work we do throughout Greater Pittsburgh.  We examine the role each of us plays as a part of the problem and that each of us can play to be part of the solution.

  • HIT’ORERUT – Awakening (amazement and gratitude)

Our ears, eyes, hearts and minds are open as vehicles of learning from and with those who are most impacted by racial bias, anti-Blackness, racism, systemic racism and historic and current societal inequities.

  • D’RASH – Interpretation (inquiry, dialogue, and transmission)

We are required to be engaged and seek out ways we can impact positive change.

  • MASA – Journey (reflection, return, and renewal)

We approach these issues with humility, aware that individuals and institutions are on journeys of understanding and discovery as are we.  Even as we journey as an institution, we appreciate the journeys of other individuals and institutions no matter how far along they are.  We embrace the long held values of graciousness (chen), loving kindness (chesed) and compassion (rachamim) throughout our journey.

  • TIKKUN OLAM – Repair of the World (responsibility)

We are committed to repair the brokenness within ourselves and the brokenness of our world caused by racial bias, anti-Blackness, racism, systemic racism and historic and current societal inequities.  As we move closer to a more complete beloved community and a more perfect union, we are guided by the Jewish value of justice (tzedek) and reminded to do so by the double imperative, “Justice, justice shall you pursue!” (Deuteronomy 16:20)

* * *

Bill Isler, Co-Chair JCC PGH Center for Loving Kindness Advisory Committee/JCC PGH Board Member

Hilary Tyson, Co-Chair JCC PGH Center for Loving Kindness Advisory Committee/JCC PGH Board Member

Rabbi Ron Symons, Founding Director JCC PGH Center for Loving Kindness

Melissa Hiller, Assistant Director JCC PGH Center for Loving Kindness

Center for Loving Kindness Advisory Committee:

Rev. Liddy Barlow, Christian Associates of Southwest PA
Zack Block, Repair the World
Nancy Bernstein, Community Leader
Beverly R. Brinn, Community Member
RosaMaria Cristello, Latino Community Center
Rev. Janet Edwards, Judah Fellowship
Jonathan Fischer, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute
Jeff Galak, CMU Associate Professor of Marketing/ JCC PGH Board Member
Caryle Glosser, Community Leader
Jake Goodman, Opportunity Fund/JCC PGH Board Member
Rev. Glenn Grayson, Jeron X Grayson Community Center/The Center That Cares
Rev. Janet Hellner-Burris, Christian Church of Wilkinsburg/Sanctuary Project Wilkinsburg
Anna Hollis, Amachi
Teddi J. Horvitz, National Council of Jewish Women
Noah Jordan, Rothman Gordon Attorney
Susan Friedberg Kalson, Squirrel Hill Health Center
Samantha Klein, Day Owl/JCC PGH Board Member
Dan Leger, Retired Chaplain and Pediatric Hospice Care Nurse
Marian Lien, St. Edmunds Academy
Geraldine Massey, Center for Victims
Dr. Liz Miller, UPMC Children’s Hospital (Adolescent and Young Adult)/JCC PGH Board Member
Wasi Mohamed, Forward Cities/Islamic Center of Pittsburgh
Elliott Oshry, Non-Profit Consultant and Volunteer
Rita Pollock, Community Leader
Cathy Reifer, Community Leader
Joanne Rogers, Community Leader
Margie Ruttenberg, Community Leader/JCC PGH Marketing Advisor
Kannu Sahni, Highmark and Allegheny Health Network
Ivy Schamis, Holocaust Studies Educator at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Sara Segel, National Council of Jewish Women
Rev. Tim Smith, Center of Life
Linda Simon, Past JCC PGH Board Chair
Josh Stein, Attorney
Sharon Werner, JCC PGH Board Member
Rabbi Jeremy Weisblatt, Temple Ohav Shalom
Lynn Zelenski, Community Leader

William Goodman, JCC PGH Board Chair
Brian Schreiber, JCC PGH President/CEO

(The above framework is inspired by the 7 lenses we employ in our Early Childhood Development Center of the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh.  Used across all aspects of early childhood education in the national JCC Sheva network, this application of the lenses to racial bias, anti-Blackness racism, systemic racism, and historic and current societal inequities, is unique to the Center for Loving Kindness (founded in 2017) of the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh.  We welcome your conversation at [email protected].)

We Believe

…’Neighbor’ is a moral concept, not a geographic term.

…Every neighbor has strength, wisdom, and value to offer and to gain.

…Civic engagement/social action is best undertaken in partnership with those who will benefit from the change.

Work envisions a community in which

  • People will be motivated to move from ‘bystander’ to ‘UPstander’ through exposure, awareness, and engagement.
  • Neighbors will be energized through cross-cultural education.
  • We will be in authentic partnerships with like-minded community organizations focused on the needs of marginalized and under-served communities.
  • The JCC will serve as a true community center, the town square where residents, municipalities, and community organizations enter into dialogue and involve people to strengthen the fabric of community.
  • Individuals and communities will have safe space in which to grieve, heal, and grow resilience within the Center for Loving Kindness.

Building Relationships

Building Relationships

We Build Relationships Through Shared Experiences…

In our increasingly polarized society, developing relationships across racial, economic, religious, cultural, and other lines of real and perceived differences is challenging. In collaboration with trusted partner organizations, the Center for Loving Kindness brings individuals from different lived experiences together, by providing structured opportunities to learn from each other and build connectedness and understanding.

Get Involved!

  • We show up for neighbors in need through Project UPstanders when one community experiences an event that causes trauma and fear.
  • We are the Town Square where diverse neighbors gather to experience cross-cultural events.
  • We Cross Bridges with community partners and facilitate opportunities for adults and teens to cross geographic borders to visit and learn from each other’s community centers, houses of worship, historical sites and neighborhoods.
  • We present Art, Movies, and Books We Have to Talk About.
  • We Strengthen the Network of People of Faith, Hope, and Values by creating opportunities for clergy and spiritual leaders to cross their own perceived boundaries.
  • We partner with Osher at Carnegie Mellon University and at The University of Pittsburgh to provide high quality and socially relevant lifelong learning opportunities.

Building Resilience

Building Resilience

We provide support and space to navigate through violence and hate as the Squirrel Hill, Jewish, and Greater Pittsburgh communities continue to grieve and heal following the Tree of Life tragedy and other painful events. Our sensitivity to violence and trauma in all communities and populations is heightened no matter the frequency nor under the perceived impact.

Get Involved

  • We host Public Forums to raise awareness of issues and behaviors that help our neighbors grow in resiliency. We spotlight local and national leaders who are working to address these concerns and we provide participants with connections to direct volunteer service and advocacy opportunities.
  • We strengthen Support Systems for Students and Teachers by working with educational leaders who provide anti-bias education across our region.
  • We support the 1 Year Commemoration of the October 27, 2018 Tragedy at the Tree of Life facility.
  • We Work with Likeminded Community Organizations across the globe that are impacted by similar incidents of trauma in order to help Pittsburgh both heal and provide healing.

Raising Awareness and Acting

Raising Awareness and Acting

We raise awareness and move people into action, by strategically identifying issues of concern to communities in our region. We augment the JCC’s role as the ‘town square’ where ideas are explored with respect, fill gaps of knowledge and understanding, promote civil discourse, and create concrete opportunities for follow-through.

Get Involved

  • We lead Rapid Responses to time sensitive critical issues.
  • We encourage you to get engaged in the voting process at any level you like by visiting our partners, The League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh at
  • We are committed to the First Amendment by focusing on the role of religion in the town square.
  • We Re-Imagine Jewish Holidays by linking Jewish traditions with social action.

American Jewish Museum

American Jewish Museum

The American Jewish Museum champions artists and art-making and supports great, complex and bold ideas. We believe art has the power to build communities.

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