The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the largest newspaper serving the Pennsylvania city’s metropolitan area, printed a part of the Jewish mourner’s prayer in Hebrew as its front-page headline.
The first four words of the Mourner’s Kaddish were printed on Friday’s front page as a tribute to the 11 people killed last weekend in a shooting attack at the city’s Tree of Life synagogue, allegedly by a far-right extremist. The words mean “may His great name be exalted and sanctified.”
David Shribner, the Post-Gazette’s executive editor, explained the decision to include the Hebrew and Aramaic prayer in a note to readers on Friday.
“When you conclude there are no words to express a community’s feelings, then maybe you are thinking in the wrong language,” wrote Shribner, who lives three blocks from the synagogue. “That’s what prompted me to consider whether an excerpt from a 10th century prayer might be the appropriate gesture — of respect, of condolence — for a 21st century audience mourning its dead, whether family, friend, congregant, neighbor or, simply, Pittsburgher.”
Shribman noted that is the tradition for Jews in mourning to recite the prayer, usually while other congregants stand in solidarity.
“This week, each entire congregation — indeed all of Pittsburgh — may well stand, in spirit if not in fact,” he wrote, “for if Pittsburgh’s passage in the past several days has shown anything, it is that these losses are all of ours, and that the solidarity of Pittsburgh’s grief is the face we have shown to those beyond the three rivers to the four corners of the earth.”
On Twitter, historian Aaron Astor wrote: “The Jewish Mourner’s Kaddish is one of the most important prayers of all. This was a very moving gesture by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to post it as the headline.”
Jodi Kantor, an investigative journalist for The New York Times, wrote that the unusual headline is “The ultimate tribute to the victims. A statement that Jews belong.”