Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victim’s family spreading inclusivity, kindness during holiday dinner

PITTSBURGH — Joyce Fienberg was one of those people you come across every so often, and you don’t forget them.

“She really wanted everyone to feel like they were the most special person,” said Marnie Fienberg, Joyce Fienberg’s daughter-in-law.

“We tend to say no matter what we do, we’re not in her league,” said Joyce’s son, Anthony Fienberg.

It was the attention to detail she paid, the reliability, and her kindness that she’s remembered for.

“Everybody said it. But we knew, because I’d known her for almost 50 years,” said Anthony.

He’s one of Joyce’s two sons who shared how he continues to honor his mother, now almost 5 years after her death. Joyce was one of the 11 people killed in the synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill in October of 2018.

“I remember walking around on a Tuesday thinking what just happened,” recalled Anthony.

Speaking from his home in Paris, Anthony says what has helped him, is strictly following the Jewish mourning practices.

A year after the tragedy, he stood outside the Tree of Life and handed out a paper of good deeds, or mitzvots, for people to do in her honor.

The other way he’s continuing, what he says is, his mother’s legacy of Judaism and kindness, is passing that down to her six grandchildren.

“She was an inseparable part of their lives,” said Marnie. “She really instilled in them that same sense that I just described about family and treating people with respect.”

Which Marnie felt the first time she met her future mother-in-law.

“Joyce made me feel like I was part of the family almost immediately,” she said.

Especially at holidays. Though Marnie and Joyce’s other son, Howard, live in Virginia, Joyce included them in everything. And she included everyone. At their seder dinners during Passover, Marnie says Joyce invited students of different faiths that she knew from working at Pitt.

“To have amazing discussion and to learn about other backgrounds,” said Marnie. “That was something that obviously has stuck with me.”

Because now Marnie invites people from all over the U.S. to participate in seders. It’s a grass roots movement she started the year following the tragedy at the synagogue called 2 for Seder.

She says more than a thousand families in almost every state invited two people who were not Jewish to their seder in 2019. And those 2 for Seder dinners are still happening to this day.

“Not only does it give this counterweight to the hate and the craziness of antisemitism, but what we actually found that when other instances started occurring, the people that weren’t Jewish had someone to talk to and it really built that bridge of understanding,” said Marnie.

The Center for Loving Kindness hosted a similar Passover-inspired meal in Pittsburgh recently.

“We’re inviting them to be a part of the conversation so the values that we have can be spread and those values are loving your neighbor as yourself,” said Rabbi Ron Symons, Founding Director for the Center for Loving Kindness at the Jewish Community Center.

“It makes me very hopeful that nobody else has to experience what we had to experience,” said Marnie. “That we can push back on this kind of hate.”

And spread more kindness and inclusiveness that came so naturally to Joyce Fienberg, and continues to spread through the web of people who know and love her.

For more information about the 2 for Seder: https://2forseder.org/

Download the FREE WPXI News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Channel 11 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch WPXI NOW