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Remembering A Jewish Childhood In Squirrel Hill, Unblemished By Hate

I lived in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh.

I lived in Squirrel Hill.

I remember the park, Frick Park- with a blue slide etched into the edge of a hill- one we used to ride down on wax paper and cardboard boxes- the relic of childhood that I rode down years later to relive the few moments of pure bliss.

I lived in Squirrel Hill. I remember the ice cream parlor, Rita’s- with the deepest cherry red Italian ice- one we’d go to on long summer days and try in vain to keep frozen for the short walk home- the cold sticky sweetness that many years later I still think of in the heat of August.

I lived in Squirrel Hill.

I remember our house, 5882 Hobart Street- with a linoleum-floored front foyer — one that my brothers and I would roller skate on with the plastic skates that you’d strap on to your sneakers — the movement that is familiar and natural to me till this day.

I lived in Squirrel Hill.

I spent the first seven years of life in this beautiful community and I thank God that those are my memories.

They are memories of a childhood unblemished by hate.

A childhood of parks, and ice cream, and skating in the foyer.

Not a childhood marred by nauseating anti-Semites.

I cry today for the children of Squirrel Hill that will never get the chance to have these untainted memories.

I cry today for the parents and the grandparents that will never be able to take their children and grandchildren to the park with the blue slide, out for cherry red Italian ice, or to join them in their noisy roller skate adventures.

I cry today for Jews worldwide, but especially today for my childhood community in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh.

And I know that you are crying too.

עֵץ-חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּה וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר דְּרָכֶיהָ דַרְכֵי-נֹעַם וְכָל-נְתִיבוֹתֶיהָ שָׁלוֹם.

She is a tree of life to those who embrace her, and those who hold on to her are happy. Her ways are pleasant, and all her paths, peaceful.

(Proverbs, 3:17-18)

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