Counselors from the Israel Trauma Coalition in Pittsburgh with Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York

Helping Pittsburgh Recover with Expertise from Israel: The Jewish Agency for Israel and Partners Send Grief Counselors to the Steel City

Immediately following the attack at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, The Jewish Agency for Israel partnered with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to dispatch a mission of five post-trauma and grief specialists from the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC). 

The specialists landed in Pittsburgh within 48 hours of the attack for a five-day trip. They advised local leaders on best practices to help their constituents endure and recover from the trauma, as well as provide the leaders with tools to manage their own anxiety. The group also began to develop a long-term healing plan for the community which will guide The Jewish Agency on ways to provide ongoing assistance.

In a report she wrote on Thursday summarizing the team’s accomplishments, Talia Levanon, CEO of the Israel Trauma Coalition, said that when they first arrived, they “found people with a great deal of bravery and a great deal of pain, who were exerting great effort into organizing and taking action, yet the attack had been so recent it felt like it was still ongoing. In those early meetings, when we gave people a distress scale of 0 to 10, most said they were at 11. Now, they are typically at around 6. This reflects the natural recovery process, but it also helps that they have people like us coming from outside and validating their pain.”

During their visit, ITC counselors met with groups f rabbis, psychologists and social workers, youth activity directors, and early childhood educators to discuss what post-trauma symptoms to expect moving forward both in themselves and in their constituents. They advised them on issues specific to their community roles such as how to respond to changes in children’s behavior and the types of synagogue events and teen activities that could help. They also prepared written materials for parents and teachers, and met with friends of a police officer who was injured during the attack and remained hospitalized during the visit.

Other efforts included training or therapeutic meetings with groups of parents and students at local campus Hillels, the Federation staff, and employees of a local mental-health clinic, as well as “summary” sessions with those they met earlier in their mission.

According to Levanon, ITC’s greatest unique contribution to Pittsburgh was their focus on helping the helpers. “Many of the leaders and organizers here haven’t been taking care of themselves because they are so busy doing things to assist the community,” she explained. “But they are part of this shared reality. They, too, knew some of the victims. Their own children are shaken and need support. We give them space to acknowledge their own difficulties and strengthen their ability to continue helping at the community level.”

See also

We're Together with Pittsburgh >

Herzog's Visit to Pittsburgh >

Pittsburgh Israel Fellow Raises Israeli Flag in Solidarity with Jewish Community >

Solidarity from Karmiel-Misgav, Pittsburgh’s Partnership Region >




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07 Nov 2018 / 29 Heshvan 5779 0