Dr. Andy Boyarsky, chairman of the Daniel Pearl Education Center (DPEC) , eulogized each of the 11 victims of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life massacre at a Friday night Shabbat service open to the broader community. His address to the community is published below.
Daniel, I thought that as the only synagogue in the United States that hosts a Daniel Pearl Education Center (DPEC) that we could and should add to the conversation about the horrific tragedy of the Tree of Life synagogue. The DPEC is committed to the ideals of acceptance of all individuals. We used to use the term tolerance but no longer. We don’t tolerate people. We accept people for who they are. I can think of virtually no example of the antithesis of that ideal than what happened in Pittsburgh last Shabbat. Initially, I thought it would be relatively easy to put together a few words. Boy, was I mistaken. As the Mayor of Old Bridge said last night at the community vigil, he couldn’t think of the right words to say. If a politician doesn’t know what to say, what chance do I have? So, I-am going to give it a chance in honor of the Tree of Life
Jerry, I swear to you that I hate to talk about my professional life in public. But, as a trauma surgeon, over the years I have had to talk with hundreds of families about the devastating news of sudden loss of a loved one. You know this isn’t easy, but it is a part of the job that we signed up for. We stay professional and try to emote an air of calm and empathy. I will try to do that tonight with my thoughts. But, I don’t know how I am going to be able to stay calm because I am INCREDIBLY UPSET AND ANGRY.
Mel, we here in East Brunswick were a few degrees of separation from having a personal connection with you. Rebecca Brenowitz, one of the most important members of our DPEC committee, her ”machatunim” is Rabbi Chazan Cheryl Klein of D’Or Hadash. Rabbi Chazan Klein prays with you every Shabbat at the Tree of Life as the spiritual leader of your Reconstructionist arm, but she just happened to be visiting her son and daughter-in-law that Saturday. What luck for her! Or is it? I hope Rabbi Chazan Klein won’t be living with guilt that she wasn’t there for her congregants when they needed her most. Here is another bit of besheart. My wife Rosalie grew up in Etz Chaim, the Tree of Life shul here in New Jersey. It doesn’t matter that her shul is 350 miles away. Tonight it is the same one. In reality, we all are part of the same synagogue.
Richard, Rabbi Meyers was interviewed during the week, and he said he felt guilty and remorseful that he couldn’t have saved more of his congregation after he rushed a group of your friends out of harm’s way, only to return to find a killing field. Please … send him a sign that he did exactly all he could do and he should never ever regret his actions for one second.
Rose, anti-Semitism is one of the most hateful and incomprehensible ideas in the human condition. I know you saw much of it in your lifetime. We all know about the Shoah and I certainly would be insane to say that this period of history shouldn’t stand alone in its vulgarity. But, the totally vile and evil person that was responsible for the Shoah still lives through this new face of the devil. The Shoah will continue until all people understand that we Jews are just like them in every way. Our needs and desires for our families, friend and neighbors are really the same as theirs and we are not the evil people these people think we are.
Joyce, I have rarely been so mad and angry and sad at the same time. Our politicians are all tone deaf. We are not particularly interested in listening to their rhetoric now. I don’t care what they have done, what think they have done or what they tell us what they are going to do. We don’t need them at all to tell us how to grieve. Let Rabbi Meyers and all of our Rabbis try to help us deal with and heal from this travesty. We will remain angry and mad and do whatever we can to try and put an end to this lunacy all by ourselves. Don’t ask me what that looks like now. But, something has to change because of what happened and it up to us to make that change occur.
Irv, if Daniel Pearl was still alive today I am sure he would be trying to educate us as to why this hate is so pervasive. Even he would have a tough time trying to convince us that there should be even the slightest bit of understanding or forgiveness for these monsters. The DPEC tries to preach acceptance of all and is the core of our mission. We will continue to do this as a tribute to Daniel Pearl and now for you and your friends. What else can we do? I wish there was more we could do to help!
Bernice and Sylvan, your Rabbi is now a kindred spirit with Rev Eric Manning. Who is Rev Manning you might ask? I bet that there are only a few of us here tonight who know who he is. Nine of his parishioners were killed in the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston in June of 2015. What happened in Pittsburgh is just a continuation of the hate in the world. Does it matter if you are black, white, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, straight, gay? The hate that is in the world today is pervasive and is not going to stop with one of the most infuriating phrases of the past 25 years … our thoughts and prayers go to Charleston, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, etc., etc., etc. Please give us a sign as to how to stop this craziness!
Cecil and David, your Tree of Life has been cut a bit short, but your spirit will live on forever. We will not forget you. You are the very essence of Judaism — welcoming, kind, warm and unassuming. Every synagogue has someone that is just like you and, if not, they need one! The shul is just four walls without any real warmth. You provided the warmth to the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. And if any of you have ever been to Pittsburgh in the winter, you know how cold and raw it can be. Not with you two! Your warmth and caring permeated throughout Squirrel Hill and I am sure it will continue to do so.
So, my friends, on behalf of the Daniel Pearl Education Center, I would like to ask you to think of our 11 sisters and brothers as you leave here tonight. Say an extra Mi Shebeirach for those recovering from their injuries. Be sure to also think of the brave Pittsburgh policemen who ran into the line of fire.
Why did this happen there and not here? It could have. We were just lucky. As we turn to the doors of our sanctuary to welcome the Shabbat bride every week, we should now also think that the face of hate could just as easily have walked through our doors. We can never forget our new Jewish martyrs and in that we must move forward to remember and honor their lives and spirits. Hatred will never win, and our courage will endure. Am Yisrael Chai.
May the One who makes peace, make peace for us and for all Israel, and let us all say amen.