Jewish Federation plants tree in City Park to honor those lost in last year’s synagogue attack

Updated: Nov. 3, 2019 at 8:52 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A new young oak tree now sits in City Park commemorating the 11 lives lost a year ago today.

In a day of service, an interfaith group led by the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, remembered those killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue. But, they also called the community to action.

The Kaddish prayer is typically said when a loved one passes away, but nowhere in it does it mention death.

“The Kaddish is an affirmation of life.”

One year after 11 people were shot to death at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, this interfaith gathering recited the prayer before planting the tree in their memory.

“This is what we do. We come out of these negative moments but continue to hold onto our faith in the future, our faith in God.”

“Today’s a day of resiliency, hope and optimism. The rebirth, in many ways, symbolic through the planting of the trees,” says Arnie Fielkow.

Fielkow, who is with the Jewish Federation of New Orleans admits discrimination, hate and violence hasn’t stopped.

“We still have a lot of work to do. We need to bring people together and to unify and to stand up and advocate.”

Councilmember Joe Giarrusso says he identifies with a number of different groups.

“My dad was Catholic, my mom was Jewish, so I grew up in an interfaith marriage and family,” says Giarrusso.

Despite our tribes, as he calls them, Giarrusso says there is more that brings us together than divides us, especially as New Orleanians.

“So, anything we can do that shows us these roots, by planting a tree, by restoring faith in each other, by making sure we’re all bound together is important to me.”

For several hours, this tree planting and commemoration of 11 lives lost succeeded in bringing people together.

But some say this day of service has an impact the city will see for years to come.

“It’s not just for now, it’s for my children’s children and the future of our city,” says one woman. “Trees really do help heal communities and people.”

NOLA Tree Project representatives say the tree planting the group did Sunday did put them over half-way to their goal of 100,000 trees. That’s how many were taken out during Hurricane Katrina.

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