November 2, 2018
Dear Rabbi Myers and Tree of Life Family:
I write to you on behalf of my congregation, the United Church of Strafford, a small, but mighty fellowship located in Strafford, Vermont.
This past Sunday we held all of you in our prayers, hearts, and minds, as we will for many days and years to come. We are embracing you with healing energy in the wake of an event fueled by darkness—an abhorrent moment in time. The suffering this tragedy has caused you, your congregation, and the greater Pittsburgh community is one that will take years to overcome as individuals, as a congregation, and as a faith. We write to say, “Don’t give up,” we are right behind you, holding you up during this difficult time and we support and love you from afar as you and your congregation take on the very hard healing work yet to come.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, in the Fox Chapel area, my introduction to Judaism happened during my early teen years at Tree of Life. It was in Tree of Life that I first heard a cantor, laid eyes on the Torah, heard Hebrew, and realized there was something special, beautiful, and mystical beyond my Catholic upbringing. The traditions, words, and prayers were different, of course, and yet I found them soothing and familiar. The realization that we all share a common intention—to love, to be loved, and to have a common, sacred place of worship came full circle for me as a young adult sitting in your sanctuary. I remember that realization fully now, in this moment, and I hold onto it tightly. Over the course of the next few years, I spent many services in Tree of Life as my friends celebrated their Bat and Bar Mitzvahs. Through the years as my friendships grew and deepened, I have shared many high holidays, smaller holidays and lit candles at Shabbat. I have always been welcomed and loved by my friends and the Jewish community.
It is our hope, that the love the Jewish community extends to its guests, neighbors, and friends, comes back to you now, in your greatest moment of need, a millionfold. That you feel the reverberations of goodness, kindness, and light filling you from near and far and that you never give up hope that love wins, every time.
Yours in sisterhood & brotherhood,
Shannon Varley & The Deacons of the United Church of Strafford
230 Justin Morrill Memorial Highway
Strafford, VT 05072
Thank you so much, Shannon, for putting words to the feelings of our hearts and delivering our love and support to the Tree of Life. Beautifully done.