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6 Ways to Mark the First Anniversary of the Tree of Life Shootings

6 Ways to Mark the First Anniversary of the Tree of Life Shootings

Tealights in the shape of a Star of David with hands reaching in to light some of the candles

Sunday, October 27, 2019, will mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Tree of Life Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh, PA – the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.

A year later, we continue to grapple with our grief, our fear, and our uncertainty about the future. And yet, as Reform Jewish leader Rabbi Jonah Pesner wrote last year after his visit to Pittsburgh in the wake of the shootings:

“Our resolve, already so strong, has hardened even further. We are stronger than ever, and together we will overcome this.”

As we remember that dark day in our history and honor those who lost their lives, here are a few resources to help you mark the anniversary in ways that are, we hope, emotionally, mentally, and Jewishly fulfilling for you:

  1. Recite the Mourner’s Kaddish for those killed in Pittsburgh: In Jewish tradition, we recite the Mourner’s Kaddish during the bereavement period and to mark the anniversary of a death of a loved one. Appropriately, Jews around the world will recite this prayer on the anniversary of the Tree of Life shooting. Find the text of the Mourner’s Kaddish here >>>  
  2. Attend services the weekend before the anniversary: On the Shabbat of Oct. 25-26, Jews the world over will #ShowUpforShabbat by attending services at synagogues and in other community gatherings. Use our Find a Congregation tool to locate a Reform synagogue near you. Search our congregational directory >>>
  3. Pause with Pittsburgh: A virtual commemoration project called Pause with Pittsburgh, organized by the Jewish Federations of North America, will include a moment of solidarity and remembrance for those killed during the attack. Held on October 27 at 5:00 pm EST, this initiative will provide an opportunity for the broader Jewish community and our allies to come together for mourning, prayer, hope, and resilience. Learn more and sign up to participate >>>
  4. Write to Congress: If you live in the United States, take a moment to write to your members of Congress to urge them to take legislative action to address the epidemic of gun violence in America. Thanks to our friends at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, it’s easier tat ever to write to your elected officials with just a few clicks of the mouse. Urge Congress to require universal background checks on all gun sales >>>
  5. Read liturgy in remembrance of this tragedy: If you’re hosting a special service or even a Shabbat dinner at home, addg a special reading to your observance. Reform Jewish liturgist Alden Solovy, for example, offers a “Prayer Against Gun Violence,” and the Central Conference of American Rabbis has compiled beautiful prayers of healing for use communally or individually. Solovy’s “Prayer for the Tree of Life Synagogue,” written days after the shooting, is still applicable today >>>
  6. Listen to music that heals: After the shooting, Reform Cantor Rosalie Will compiled a playlist of songs, both Jewish and otherwise, to be used in gatherings of healing and hope for all faiths who want to stand together against violence and hate. Listen to “Songs of Healing: Music to Listen to After Tragedy” >>>

One year after this gut-wrenching, world-changing act of violence, we continue to mourn, to pray, and to do our part to bring about justice and peace. As Rabbi Pesner wrote last year, “Let our deeds of justice and our words of love turn the silent stillness of death into the possibility of liberty and new life.” Amen.

To learn more about the Reform Jewish community’s work to put an end to the scourge of end gun violence, please visit

Kate Kaput is the assistant director, messaging and branding, on the Union for Reform Judaism's marketing and communications team. In this role, she serves as a content manager and editor for A native of Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson, OH, and an alumna of the Religious Action Center's Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Fellowship, Kate holds a degree in magazine journalism and lives in Cleveland, OH, with her husband.

Kate Kaput
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