Maggie Feinstein knows that the Jewish community of Pittsburgh is resilient. That trait is a legacy, passed on by the many immigrants who faced trauma when they came to Pittsburgh to start a new life and raise their families.
“There was this sense of self-reliance, a community that can take care of itself,” the 10.27 Healing Partnership executive director explained.
But those immigrant parents also knew that trauma would resurface here at some point, and culturally, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were aware it would, too. And it did, horribly and tragically, on Oct. 27, 2018.
Feinstein’s organization and others have worked for three years to prepare for the synagogue shooting trial, a critical process to ensure the community will have access to healing and coping resources during it. Feinstein wrote on May 10 in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle that emotions and old wounds will reawaken during it. In the column, she offered steps and advice for the Squirrel Hill community and beyond to become more resilient.
Feinstein said the community has had no say in the long time it took for the legal proceedings to begin, but it could look ahead of it to prepare. “We had no way to predict how it will happen, but we can predict how it will feel,” she said. “We knew this would be coming. Even if it is uncomfortable, we have a lot more control than we did on Oct. 27 .”
Pittsburgh and specifically Squirrel Hill have an abundance of counseling centers, professionals and support groups, which is fortunate. The 10.27 Healing Partnership has added drop-in counseling and alternative healing, which Feinstein said her organization is very committed to and is in addition to other services, for people who may experience trauma and reactivation trauma as the trial gets underway. It is expected to last for three months.
The needs of these people who seek help will be very individual, Feinstein said. “We are encouraging people to tell us what their trauma is when they come in the door,” she said. How they find help will also be individual. “Coming out for drumming, reiki or our forest bathing program, we hope people can engage in less conventional ways,” she said.
A concern always for counselors is that affected people will not seek help at all. “So many things stop people from getting help,” she said. “One is pride. [Another is] feeling either ashamed, or ‘I should be able to do this myself. Why is it so hard?’ ”
Another obstacle, especially related to Oct. 27, is they believe someone has it worse than they do. “I call it the scarcity mindset. ‘If there are only so many resources, I don’t want to take them from someone else,’ ” she explained. “I want you to ask for what you need for yourself.”
Finally, for a lot of people, hopelessness prevents them from accessing counseling. She said they believe, “ ‘Nothing has ever helped me. Why should I try now?’ ”
Feinstein said she was just a neighbor and community member on 10.27, concerned about her friends and not a leader. “Going to this trial is the first time I am carrying that weight. I am honored to be there with my neighbors and my community members,” she said. “I think the pain that will come out of this process will have purpose. I don’t know what it will be yet.”
The 10.27 Healing Partnership announced recently that it has secured funding and will continue its operations until 2028. It spent a year listening to the community and evaluating needs, working closely with more than 100 organizations, Feinstein said.
“We came up with the realization that we are blessed with many resources in this community,” she stressed, noting that the rebuilding of the synagogue that housed the three congregations will take place during the same time span. “We will work to transfer the work back to the organizations we have worked with. … We believe that we will be able to transition the work into their capable hands.”
What follows is a listing of community resources available to those experiencing trauma, reactivation trauma or any additional difficulties as the trial begins and then concludes. This list will be updated as more information is provided and additional services are offered.
10.27 HEALING PARTNERSHIP resources available to the general public during the trial, all held in its center, Room 316 in the Jewish Community Center, 5738 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill.
Drop-in Counseling: Available every weekday. Anyone can access therapy during these hours for free and for any reason during these hours:
Mondays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Wednesdays, 3-6 p.m.
Thursdays, 3-6 p.m.
Fridays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Individual-focused counseling: Available through Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and Staunton Farms Foundation grants.
The partnership’s experienced trauma clinician is available for walk-in and rapidly scheduled appointments. Based on the right support for the right person at the right time, sessions can be scheduled to work remotely, in the partnership’s office or in the community.
Trauma Support Group: Led by therapist Linda Welsh, this support group is especially designed for those who have experienced hate-based violence or trauma, including trauma stemming from antisemitism, the synagogue shooting or the trial.
It meets every other Monday at 4 p.m. Check online calendar for upcoming dates.
Alternative Wellness: Wellness Wednesdays, drum circles, yoga and more.
With the belief that healing can take a different path for every person, the partnership offers a variety of programs designed to enhance connection, healing and communal care. It holds Wellness Wednesdays once a month with rotating practitioners, including healing storytelling, reiki, sound bathing and acupuncture. Trauma-informed yoga is offered once a week and expressive and cathartic drum circles every month.
10.27 Healing Partnership Suite: A free space, open to all, weekdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Its center within the JCC is open to everyone, with or without a JCC membership. It is available to anyone who wants to connect, needs a quiet space for reflection, or is looking for a calm and empathetic space to talk.
Solidarity building: Various and ongoing events.
The partnership recognizes that standing in solidarity, action and community is a powerful healing modality. It has held several solidarity-building events and volunteering opportunities and will continue to do so throughout the trial. It encourages everybody to wear or display blue ribbons throughout the trial as a symbol of their commitment to standing against hate in all its forms and their solidarity with the families, survivors and victims during the trial.
Other resources: Online and printed information.
The partnership includes mental health and trial support information in its newsletters and through its social media pages.
JEWISH FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES, 5743 Bartlett St., is offering the following resources:
Individual counseling: Counseling is provided in a wide range of areas, including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, self-image or self-worth, relationship problems, family stress, anger management, grief and loss, and parenting issues, including single parent and blended families. Specialists in the challenges of aging are available for older adults; in-home sessions are an option.
UpStreet services: Help directed to people ages 12-22. The teen mental wellness program offers drop-in consultations with therapists, scheduled therapy appointments, text-based peer support and support groups. Brief chat support also available.
JFCS therapists: Available at the 10.27 drop-in center at the JCC.
Regular emails and online information: Provided to the community with advice and help on therapy resources, tips, techniques and more. A recent article on its website offered advice on negotiating social media during the trial.
This story is part of ongoing coverage of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial by the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and the Pittsburgh Union Progress in a collaboration supported by funding from the Pittsburgh Media Partnership.