Pittsburgh’s Jewish Community Center collecting stuffed animals, books for children of Uvalde, Texas

PITTSBURGH — When tragedy struck Uvalde, Texas, this week, leaders in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community jumped into action.

“When we heard about what was going on in Uvalde, what happened, for all of us as human beings, it just hit a core, that this is just wrong,” said Rabbi Ron Symons, the founding director of the Jewish Community Center’s Center for Loving Kindness.

The Center for Loving Kindness and the 10.27 Healing Partnership launched the “Build a Hug” initiative.

They’re collecting stuffed animals and books for the children in Texas still struggling to comprehend the deaths of their 19 classmates and two teachers.

“I’m a mother of a third grader and a fifth grader and it’s just really hard,” said Fara Marcus, the JCC’s director of development and marketing. “It hits home, especially when it’s children who are involved.”

For many Pittsburghers, this week’s attack in Uvalde brings horrible memories of the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue tragedy flooding back.

“Trauma is not something that can be dealt with in a month or a year. It’s something that has far-reaching effects,” said Emery Malachowski, the outreach coordinator for 10.27 Healing Partnership.

Eleven people were shot and killed while worshipping in Squirrel Hill on Oct. 27, 2018.

It was the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history.

Outreach and donations poured in from across the world.

Now, Pittsburgh’s Jewish community is repaying the favor.

“We know what it’s like to have people just show up at at JCC and to say, ‘how can I help?’ We know what it’s like just to get food, not knowing where it came from. We know what it’s like to get packages on the mail of things that people did for us even though they were halfway around the world,” said Symons. “That’s what we’re trying to do for the children of Uvalde.”

You can drop off books and stuffed animals at the Squirrel Hill or South Hills Jewish Community Center locations until Friday, June 3.

Donations will then be sent to Uvalde, Texas.

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