This Thanksgiving, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from the extraordinary people of the City of Pittsburgh who have shown our nation and the world what it looks like to come together to fight darkness with light.
In the Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh where I recently spoke, there is a speech delivered in 1909 by President William Taft where he said, “Never in the history of the country in any crisis and under any conditions have our Jewish fellow citizens failed to live up to the highest standard of citizenship and patriotism.”
These sentiments are just as true today as they were in 1909. The resilience and strength of the Pittsburgh community and its support of older adults have been a beacon of light. Sadly, this tragedy is a reminder that hate exists in a country where we thought we should be celebrating religious freedom. Yet, having had the privilege to represent the Association of Jewish Aging Services (AJAS) as its Chairperson, I was witness to the healing of the Pittsburgh community.
There are lessons to be learned. The City of Pittsburgh and the Squirrel Hill community are a shining light in a moment of incredible darkness. Their resilience to come together in health and support is an inspiration. All the people who were killed at the Tree of Life synagogue were older adults – ages 57-97 – living their lives independently. Their’s was the definition of good aging. They were known to so many people living as neighbors and friends. That community, led by the Jewish Association on Aging, supports its older adults living independently. The collaboration among aging services in Pittsburgh, the faith-based community, and government services are a model of what our nation can do to encourage and support older adults to remain engaged in their communities.
The experience I had in Pittsburgh underscores that the citizens of Pittsburgh live up to the highest standard of citizenship and patriotism. We stand in solidarity with them this Thanksgiving and every day.