JCC’s Center for Loving Kindness stands as pillar of strength in community

PITTSBURGH — This week, WPXI and 11 Cares are celebrating kindness in the Pittsburgh area.

We are partnering with the JCC’s Center for Loving Kindness and several Starbucks locations all week to recognize those who spread kindness.

The Center For Loving Kindness has been around for just five years, but already it has become a pillar of strength.

Rabbi Ron Symons and his staff at the JCC are on a mission to bring people together regardless of politics, beliefs or location.

“We help neighbors to live in community together with each other, across their shared humanity, through their perceived difference,” Symons said.

Rabbi Symons founded the Center for Loving Kindness at the JCC five years ago.

Symons said there are three main principles at the Center for Loving Kindness:

1.            Love your neighbor as yourself.

2.            Do not stand idle while your neighbor bleeds.

3.            Redefine neighbor from a geographic term to a moral concept.

“What we do is help people be upstanders, not bystanders. We see what’s going on in the world, and you sit back a little bit. But we say, ‘No, no, no, don’t be a bystander, but an upstander,’” Symons said.

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For example, when Russia invaded Ukraine, they went to a Ukrainian Orthodox church with a large sign — with signatures from dozens of people — to let them know the JCC and the center stand with them.

They helped hundreds of Afghan refugees by learning about their cuisine and then making it for them.

They were there after a deadly shooting at Oliver Academy to let that community know they were not alone.

After the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, they reached out to that community.

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They said that Uvalde wanted two things: teddy bears and books. And the center made that happen.

They work with police and clergy around Pittsburgh on a regular basis to help them better understand each other.

“We’re doing that with evangelical Christians and Muslims — and Jews,” Symons said.

Again, it doesn’t matter who you are, just that you’re a human being who might need help or might need a connection.