Ten-year-old Lehv Sahud decorated a postcard Friday addressed to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh with a red heart, a yellow flower and a message of support.
“Thoughts of love are passed on through people. Thoughts of hope, people already have. Thinking of your hard times of struggle. We are here to help,” he wrote.
Sahud attends the Community Day School in Squirrel Hill, just a mile from the Tree of Life synagogue where 11 people were killed last year. School leaders say since then, people around the world have sent everything from letters to massage therapy sessions for teachers. The school wanted to give back. So students like Sahud spent the morning writing to groups that have been marginalized, including the Islamic Center, and communities across the world that have been victim to mass shootings.
“I know I felt very upset when the shooting happened here and I know that nice words helps when you’re thinking sad thoughts,” Sahud said.
Eighth graders made the list of places to send postcards including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. and the Latino Community Church in El Paso, Texas. Locally they wrote postcards to first responders, the Latino Community Center and the Center of Life in Hazelwood.
The school also chose to focus on joy and kindness with families at its Friday Kabbalat Shabbat service, which literally means “receiving the Sabbath.” Students and families sang together and danced around the school gym. Third graders read a book about kindness and parents also wrote postcards.
“We were very intentional about the fact that we didn’t want it to be a memorial. We wanted it to be joyful and really focusing on (being) together,” said Sarah DeWitt, the school’s director of enrollment.
Last year, eighth graders organized a memorial service the week after the shooting. Students lit candles and read their own reflections on the attack in their community. Later that week, families joined the students for the Kabbalat Shabbat.
“Parents and grandparents just wanted to be together, to experience joy in their community in a Jewish space,” DeWitt said.
In a newsletter sent to families, Head of School Avi Baran Munro said that service was so special because the school community came together, "defiantly, joyfully, Jewishly, together."
"Not a word needed to be spoken about what had happened. Everyone knew. And everyone knew that our singing, dancing, hugging, laughing, and crying community coming together to welcome Shabbat was the only possible response to those who would seek to destroy us," she said.