Israel to honor Pittsburgh Jewish leader at Independence Day ceremony

The honor has been bestowed in solidarity with Pittsburgh Jews following the deadly terror attack at the Tree of Life Congregation.

By World Israel News

Israel has announced that the torch on behalf of Diaspora Jewry at the Jerusalem ceremony marking Independence Day next month will be lit by Jeff Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

The honor has been bestowed upon the Pittsburgh community leader in solidarity with the Jews in that city following the terror attack at the Tree of Life Congregation in October, in which 11 members of the community were murdered by a white supremacist.

Israel’s Culture Ministry said Monday that it selected Finkelstein in recognition of his contribution toward leading “the Jewish community’s efforts to cope and rebuild” in the aftermath of the massacre.

Culture Minister Miri Regev said Finkelstein symbolized the “spirit of greatness and social cohesion among our people.”

The synagogue announced last week that it was inviting young people worldwide to submit artwork to cover the fencing surrounding the still-shuttered building.

The art project is called “#HeartsTogether: The Art of Rebuilding.” Organizers said that the Tree of Life Congregation is looking for “original, uplifting images and graphics” to be printed on windscreens that will cover the temporary perimeter fencing.

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Two years ago, Regev, whose ministerial position puts her in charge of state ceremonies, had decided to include a Diaspora lighting for one of the torches, but she dropped the idea for this year’s event until an outcry from various Jewish communities convinced her to maintain the new custom after all.

The prestigious ceremony, which takes according to the Jewish calendar, is scheduled for May 8 on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. It marks the conclusion of Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and Terror Victims and the beginning of Independence Day in an emotionally charged atmosphere as the two occasions are marked on consecutive days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.