Remembering Tree of Life Three Years Later

Stand for Israel  |  October 27, 2021

Tree of Life memorial
(Photo: White House/Andrea Hanks)

Three years ago, an anti-Semitic terrorist shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh took the lives of 11 Jewish worshipers. In the wake of the attack, Rabbi Eckstein mourned those lost, while listening for God’s call during the horrific moment in time:

But my message to you today is not only one of heartbreak, which I know you feel deeply as well. I also want to share with you what I believe is the lesson God is repeatedly trying to teach us, Jews and Christians alike, through tragedies like this. And what we, in The Fellowship, can and must do in response to this divine calling.

One of the first questions God asked in the Bible after Cain murdered Abel is, “Where is Abel your brother?”, to which Cain replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

In light of Pittsburgh and God’s similar question of us today, our response should be a resounding, “Here I am. Send me.” as the prophet Isaiah answered to God’s call…

At Tree of Life, many worshipers had gathered to celebrate a bris. Thousands of miles away in the Holy Land, Yael was attending a similar ceremony. After the reality of what happened in Pittsburgh sank in, and her shock wore off, Yael wrote of hope:

Our Christian friends give me hope for the future. Millions of them proudly self-identify as Christian Zionists, thus making themselves the target of hatred as well. Yet it doesn’t deter them from standing strong with Israel and the Jewish people.

I am encouraged by all that we, Jews and Christians, have already achieved working side by side. It has never been more important for people of faith to come together and help each other. As our shared canon directs us in Leviticus 19:18, we must love our neighbors as ourselves.

Ultimately, what we agree upon is far more important than our differences. History need not repeat itself. Together, we can stomp out this evil and remove it from the world forever.

It’s about time.

As we remember, let us also pray:

God, today we remember the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.

Just three years ago today…

Eleven lives were unjustly taken from this earth

Six more injured

A faith community forever impacted.

Our hearts are filled with grief, anger, and sadness

That the Jewish people continue to experience threats to their lives and safety

In our nation, and around the world.

Today we honor the victims, may their memories be forever blessed

We offer up prayers of strength and peace to those who survived

We extend support and care to the family and friends of all those involved.

Lord, protect Your people, now and forever.