ROXBURY, NJ – Temple Shalom in Succasunna on Friday unveiled a glass sculpture depicting a "tree of life" crafted in memory of the 11 people shot to death Oct. 27, 2018 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The sculpture, created by Bedminster artist Maggie Green, depicts a colorful tree with 11 fallen black leaves representing the victims of the incident, the worst mass-murder of Jewish people on American soil.
Mounted on a wall inside Temple Shalom, the sculpture was unveiled at the beginning of a special, 2 ½-hour Shabbat service that featured speeches by politicians, local clergy, important figures in international Jewish affairs and Roxanne Levine, a Tree of Life congregant.
“I joined so many congregants who, for some reason or another, were just not there that time,” Levine told the audience of about 400 attending the ceremony. “In my case, I’m a nurse-practitioner and I have to work eight Saturdays a year and that just happened to be one of the Saturdays … I struggled with the idea that I, personally, had a near-miss.”
However, she said her son reminded her that “Jews should not feel survival guilt. It is our job, as Jews, to survive.” Levine urged those in attendance to do so by helping others, “doing acts of kindness” and “doing all we can to stop evil speech and to spread the light of our values.”
The song-filled evening was led by Temple Shalom Rabbi-Cantor Inna Serebro-Litvak, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia and a trained vocalist who once sang in the Tel Aviv Philharmonic Choir.
Embraced by the Roxbury Community
The mood of the predominantly somber dedication ceremony was lifted at times by Serebro-Litvak’s sense of humor, particularly when she joked while introducing the speakers: U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, Roxbury Deputy Mayor Fred Hall, NJ-Israel Commission Executive Director Andrew Gross, World Union for Progressive Judaism President Rabbi David Saperstein and First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna Pastor Rev. Carie Morgan.
But she did not quip when introducing Hall, instead focusing on how he and others in Roxbury government embrace Temple Shalom and its congregants.
“When I met Fred, I looked at him and I said, ‘Fred, you are such a kind person,’” Serebro-Litvak recalled. “He doesn’t have to say anything. You see him and you feel the warmth and the kindness.”
As did all those who spoke, Hall denounced anti-Semitism. He said Roxbury “differentiates itself by its people,” noting that the town “is a caring community with outstanding volunteers and programs … a township that also knows right from wrong, which leads us today in regards to the targeted attacks which occurred in 2018 on the Jewish community, which is just horrific.”
He called the Pittsburgh attack, and other recent acts of violence against Jews “not only an attack on the Jewish community but an assault on us all.”
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