David Feldstein knew seven of the 11 people killed in the synagogue. For Augie Siriano, they all were friends. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers was leading Shabbat services when the gunshots rang out.
Barely three weeks after the Tree of Life massacre — believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history — they and their fellow Pittsburghers are preparing to mark a holiday built around gratitude. But in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, they aren’t shying away from celebrating Thanksgiving. They’re welcoming it.
“It’s really a perfect time that Thanksgiving is falling right now,” Myers says. The holiday, he says, is about family — and spending time with loved ones is needed at a time like this.
And in the concentric circles of grief and healing around him — Tree of Life, Squirrel Hill and the city of Pittsburgh itself — the sentiment is similar.
“(With) Thanksgiving coming so closely on the heels of the shooting, people feel the need to be around family more,” says Dan Iddings, owner of Classic Lines, a bookstore about a half-mile from the synagogue. He will celebrate Thanksgiving with about 20 family and friends, and he expects it to be “a very family- and community-centered Thanksgiving, more so than in the past few years.”
How do you summon thankfulness in a family, in a community, when the wounds are so fresh and the grief so hard to bear? When what you’ve lost is so profound, how do you sit down around a holiday spread and enjoy what you have? To talk to people in Squirrel Hill this week — those directly affiliated with Tree of Life and those who compose the community around it — is to begin to understand the different forms that gratitude can take.