Poetry | We Are the Tree Of Life


Leela Ekambarapu | Staff Photographer

Opinions editor Leah Mensch wears a Tree of Life necklace.

By Leah Mensch , Opinions Editor

Editor’s Note: this poem is a line-unit palindrome. It is to be read forwards, then backwards (line by line) for an alternate meaning. 

this is our city

this is my city

we loved fiercely

and even so

he suspended us amongst a violence most had never known

14 dead, 23 injured, all Jews must die

15 years from now I will tell my children why

our synagogue door is padlocked

even if

our faith does not cease

we are broken

only a fool would say

we can fight off this hatred

and in a way that is humble but bold

my neighbors, my people, my city condemn this violence

but it’s too late 

to use our bridges as our strength

he didn’t want us 

in this community

I look around this neighborhood 

to heartbreak, a crime scene, grief

this city, these people, once felt like an entrance

into a more united structure

Pittsburgh has been bent and torn and twisted

I didn’t realize right away that

this would break me, would break us

and I thought

Tisha B’Av is the saddest day on my Jewish calendar

I never again will live in a world where

I am not scared 

I am proud to be Jewish

will my pride put my future children’s lives in danger? 

will we ever find peace during Shabbat again?

this community is the reason I no longer wonder

what calamity can cultivate

I have found a beautiful sliver of light in 

outsiders applauding our community’s resilience, of course they cannot see what I see

gathering in love, as one, is 

not enough for us to heal but 

accepting the devastation is 

supposed to help us rise, but I can’t 

they say leaving the community is

painful, but it’s harder to stay here 

letting go of anger is 

far out of reach, behind layers of fog 

our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters will not see us as 

we rise from the ashes 

that isn’t the way the world works, but still

they say things cannot get worse

yet humanity does

the sun doesn’t shine in Pittsburgh

(read from bottom to top) 


Leah thanks her mother for persistently watering her Jewish roots and teaching her that first and foremost, religion is about love. 

Write to Leah at [email protected]