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October 8, 2019 12:34 pm

Pittsburgh Rabbi Writes Yom Kippur Poem in Honor of Those Killed in Tree of Life Synagogue Massacre

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A man prays at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oct. 31, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Cathal McNaughton.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, who survived the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, has penned a poem for Yom Kippur in honor of those murdered.

Eleven worshipers were killed in the massacre on October 27, 2018, an act of violence that horrified both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities in the US. The killer was revealed to have been motivated by an antisemitic, white supremacist ideology.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Rabbi Perlman wrote the poem as a form of “American martyrology” in the tradition of Jewish hymns to those who have died for “kiddush Hashem,” the “sanctification of the name” of God.

Perlman, leader of the New Light Congregation, entitled the poem “Eileh Ezkarah for Pittsburgh,” and wrote it with the help of other rabbis and Hebrew experts. It has both Hebrew and English versions.

It was written especially for Yom Kippur, with its observance of Yizkor, or memorial prayers.

The poem refers to the “the enemy came to tread upon our holy space” and says of those killed, “To the eleven, God spoke in a whisper, ‘The time has arrived to sanctify My Name in public.’”

“We buried our bodies and upon them we wept. And even so, this did not break us,” says a defiant refrain.

The poem ends with a pledge to collectively recite the “Shema” prayer, the holiest in Judaism:

As long as this breath is within us

We ponder the world you created for us

And evening and morning, each and every day,

We gather and we cry out as one:

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.

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