Remembering The Tree Of Life

Dear Readers,

On the morning of Saturday, October 27, 2018, an armed assassin named Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., shouted “All Jews must die,” and opened fire.

Now we are two years past the event, and like so many other dates/times in our tragic history, it is time for commemoration.  Time to remember the date, time to grieve, time to share the grief.

I live in Pittsburgh. I grew up down the street from the Tree of Life. I attended Sunday school, Hebrew school, and all holiday services, as did my parents, grandparents, children and in-laws. I was married there, as were my parents. This was my shul, the victims were friends and/or members of my community.

In memory of them, and as I said above, to share the grief, I offer the following poem.

Eli, Eli

eleven tolling

orchestral bells

as Elgar tries

with eloquence

to grieve like a Jew                  

but the cello cries out

O God not again

as I do each New Year

for Akiva for Masada

for the executed

piled deep in pits

at Belarus and Rawa Ruska

for Chelm, Lelow, for Telz,

for the hundreds of shtetls

for Sobibor for Belzec

for the dozens of camps

my people incinerated ghosts

ash in the soil of Europe

O God, now for Pittsburgh

my city in America

for friends I knew

the freshest blood

for the Rosenthal boys

for the other innocents

the eleven souls praying

in the synagogue

for the eleven new dead.

–Judith R. Robinson

This poem is included in a YouTube broadcast:

Thanks to The Mellors Library of Pittsburgh, Pa. 

 *dedicated to the victims of the Tree of Life massacre, October 27, 2018


About the Author
Judith R. Robinson is a visual artist, an editor, teacher, fiction writer and poet. She has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and anthologies. She has taught and conducted workshops for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Winchester- Thurston School and Allegheny Community College. She currently teaches poetry for Osher at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.
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