Editorial: #HeartsTogether promotes Tree of Life healing
How do you fill the hole left by grief and sorrow?
How do you close the wound ripped open by hate?
The Tree of Life synagogue stands — an empty shell — since the Oct. 27 shooting that shattered worship services on a quiet Sabbath morning. In the days after 11 congregants were killed, police tape was only half of what surrounded the Squirrel Hill building. There were also the deluge of mementos and memorials left for the dead. Those were removed and cataloged to allow the city and the synagogue to move on, but now what?
Now the unoccupied building is surrounded by fences and tarps until decisions are made about how the three congregations that occupied the building will continue.
But tarps don’t seem to honor the spirit of the synagogue or the sacrifice of the shooting victims. With “#Hearts Together: The Art of Rebuilding,” the community wants to change that by asking for children from around the world to send artwork that will be used to screen the fences and fill in an online gallery.
In essence, the fences are a cast that is holding the synagogue together while the damage inside heals. There will be scars, yes, but bones get better by knitting themselves back together the same way the bereaved community can hold hands and cling to each other as they recover.
Having a cast is never fun, but it does give a chance for people to sign it — to leave a name or a message, and that is what the #HeartsTogether project can be. People all over the world offered support to the Tree of Life. Now kids can send their artwork to be part of that protective chrysalis that will help the congregation heal.
But the project also says something about the people doing the healing.
They look ahead to a time when they are healed. They acknowledge that this is a “temporary condition,” as Tree of Life board member Laurie Zittrain Eisenberg said. Everything about the beautification project speaks of hope and determination.
They just need the strength to support them, like a crutch, until they knit together enough to stand again, and a little hope to reflect back to the world surrounding them.
The artwork might just be a bandage, but what a beautiful, hopeful bandage it could be.