I will remember, remember, the Fourth of November.
Because the Fourth of November, 2019, was the day I sat in the presence of someone who is an answer to a long-held prayer.
For years, I have prayed and hoped for someone to be raised up from within the Jewish community. Someone who is the embodiment of all the wondrously complex aspects of Jewish identity, for as we all know, being Jewish is complicated. Someone whose awareness and identity encompasses the length and breadth of the Jewish experience, deeply rooted in where this remarkable people come from, have persevered through, and triumphed in spite of. Someone whose gratitude for the inheritance granted to citizens of the United States is enhanced with the even grander inheritance of Jewish values, culture, drive, and ingenuity, and is an unapologetic Zionist. Someone who can communicate and inspire, with depth, deftness, ease, humour, and humanity.
This someone, this answer to prayer, is Bari Weiss.
As a recent transplant to Pittsburgh, I have been overwhelmed by the warmth and welcome by the Jewish community, in spite of not being an official tribe member. Moving to a new city alone can be difficult, but I have experienced first-hand the ingredients that constitute the “Pittsburgh Principle” Ms. Weiss speaks of in her remarkable book How to Fight Anti-Semitism.
From the day I drove to Squirrel Hill to temporarily stay with the aunt and uncle of a friend as I looked for a place to live, I have never felt like a stranger. Shabbat tables have been shifted to have a seat for me at them. Discussions ranging from Torah to politics to literature to Israel to history are spirited and varied in points of view but never devolve into being nasty or rude. The ingredients of welcome, love, and respect given, no matter who are or where you come from, were put into the pressure cooker of anti-Semitic violence on October 27, 2018, when 11 precious members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community lost their lives at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
It was through this pressure and crisis where Pittsburgh showed that the fruit of true seeds of friendship and acceptance will result in solidarity across all divides. It is wholly appropriate that this city is crisscrossed by bridges made by the solid steel Pittsburgh is famous for. The bridges between hearts and communities here are just as strong. This is the “Pittsburgh Principle” pinpointed by Bari Weiss that we must all learn from: None of us are bystanders. We must all be upstanders, no matter who is under attack. We must all say “no” in one voice against hatred that divides and precipitates violence. We must act each day with this “no” in our hearts.
I am eternally grateful for a city that is an example we can all look to and emulate.