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Monroeville

New Jersey students send symbols of faith to Pittsburgh Jewish community

Dillon Carr
| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, 4:33 p.m.
Decorated wooden boxes are spread on a table at the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroeville. The boxes are meant to encase a mezuzah, a Jewish prayer, and be placed on doorplaces of homes.
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review
Decorated wooden boxes are spread on a table at the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroeville. The boxes are meant to encase a mezuzah, a Jewish prayer, and be placed on doorplaces of homes.
Large pieces of paper show messages of support to the Pittsburgh Jewish community following a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue. The posters were made by students of the Moriah School in Englewood, New Jersey.
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review
Large pieces of paper show messages of support to the Pittsburgh Jewish community following a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue. The posters were made by students of the Moriah School in Englewood, New Jersey.
Rabbi Mendy Schapiro holds a scoll with a handwritten Jewish prayer that will be placed in a mezuzah.
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review
Rabbi Mendy Schapiro holds a scoll with a handwritten Jewish prayer that will be placed in a mezuzah.

Days after 11 people died when a gunman opened fire inside a Squirrel Hill synagogue, students hundreds of miles away began creating reminders of God’s love to send to the Pittsburgh Jewish community.

The Chabad Jewish Center of Monroeville received over 100 decorated mezuzahs and sentimental cards from the Moriah School in Englewood, N.J. The school’s mitzvah, or good deed, followed a Chabad Lubavitch of Pittsburgh campaign seeking 1,100 mezuzahs from around the world to symbolize unity.

A mezuzah is a piece of parchment inscribed with religious text. It holds significance in the Jewish faith because it reflects, in Hebrew script, the holiest prayer in Judaism, said Rabbi Mendy Schapiro of Chabad Jewish Center. According to Jewish tradition, the scroll is to be placed in a case or box and fashioned to one’s doorpost.

“The significance of the mezuzah itself is that God tells us he watches over us; he’s always there,” Schapiro said.

In response to the Oct. 27 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, students of Moriah School painted wooden boxes and decorated them. Some had colorful beads and others had pictures of houses stacked, symbolizing Jerusalem’s support amid the tragedy.

The students also decorated large pieces of paper with the Star of David and messages such as “We stand by your side” and “We stand together as one.”

“It’s heartwarming to see how the entire world is rallying behind our community during this time of suffering and tragedy. And not only adults — children are getting involved,” Schapiro said.

Shortly after receiving them, Schapiro posted on social media about the mezuzahs and people from around the region reached out to claim them. The cases were given away for free, but the Chabad charged $40 for the scrolls, which were handwritten with the Jewish prayer.

Schapiro said the mezuzahs were gone within days.

Toni Linder of Stanton Heights was one person who wanted a decorated mezuzah.

“I grew up with them in our home. You just know you’re in God’s house when you come in,” she said.

Linder said she got a mezuzah for herself and one for someone who lost a family member at the Tree of Life shooting.

“I’ve known the family for several years,” Linder said.

Linder attends Congregation Beth Shalom in Squirrel Hill, just under a mile from the Tree of Life Congregation. She said she’s waiting for a good time to give the mezuzah to the family as she anticipates the gesture to be met with a great deal of emotion.

“I want them to be emotionally ready for it,” she said.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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