A Message from Pittsburgh

By Josh Donner


Much has been written, said, and felt this week about the tragedy at Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha, Dor Hadash and New Light Congregations. I add this message of gratitude.

I am personally grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support from professional colleagues across the country, in Israel and around the world. Your phone calls, emails, text messages, thoughts, prayers and offers for help mean so much. We spend a great deal of time as professionals helping others find meaning in being Jewish. This week I’ve never felt more embraced by you. My own personal construct of k’lal Yisroel – what it means to stand in that special corner of Abraham and Sarah’s tent for those who call themselves Jewish professionals – will forever be shaped by this moment. Thank you.

I can’t speak for all of my colleagues, I imagine that many feel the same way. However, I know for certain that many do not. They don’t feel this way because they haven’t had a moment to think about it. Since last Saturday afternoon, from Rabbi to receptionist, executive director to youth group director, Jew and people of all backgrounds and beliefs, so many have worked tirelessly to do what needs to be done. Ensuring buildings are open and safe. Fielding calls from volunteers. Organizing vigils. Responding to the media. Counseling students and congregants. Creating programs. Canceling programs. Attending and officiating funerals. Finding moments to hug family members and do laundry.

I like clichés because they work. The professionals of Jewish Pittsburgh are sprinting at the beginning of a marathon.

They are acting as a source of strength to their students, clients, volunteers and colleagues. And they must find time to care for themselves and each other.

JPRO Pittsburgh, with the support of our national colleagues through JPRO Network and national experts in disaster relief, are working on a plan to help local organizations support their employees. While the plan is still evolving, here is what we know it will include:

  • Channels to help organizations bring counseling to their teams, and for individuals to access confidential counseling whenever they need it.
  • Times and spaces to relax and recognize each other.
  • Professional guidance for supervisors on how to recognize when and how to help their teams shift back into “normal” mode.
  • Strategies to support larger organizations with talent strategies and HR professionals, as well as smaller enterprises and those working outside traditional organizational structures.
  • A nimble action team, including and informed by HR and disaster recovery experts, to coordinate efforts and make sure no organization or person falls through the cracks.
  • Participation of lay leaders, who partner with professionals through thick and thin.

Here is how professionals everywhere can help our colleagues in Pittsburgh:

  • Reach out with words of encouragement. Look through your address book or Facebook friends and send a quick note or a long poem. If you don’t have direct colleagues in Pittsburgh, send an email addressed by title (Dear Rabbi, Dear camp counselor, etc.) to jpropittsburgh@jfedpgh.org and we’ll make sure it gets delivered to somebody who will appreciate your outreach.
  • Donate to support the resiliency of Jewish Pittsburgh and its professionals. The most effective and preferred way to support immediate and long-term needs across Jewish Pittsburgh – including support for our local professionals – is to give through Federation’s “Our Victims of Terror Fund.”
  • Share your ideas. Help us flesh out this plan by sending your ideas for programs, services and strategies to jpropittsburgh@jfedpgh.org.
  • Expect to hear more. It may be weeks or months until we really understand all of our needs. Please stay tuned and in touch for updates and future calls to action.

We truly are stronger together.


Josh Donner
Chair, JPRO Pittsburgh

Joshua Donner is Executive Director of The David S. and Karen A. Shapira Foundation, and chair of JPRO Network’s local affiliate, JPRO Pittsburgh.