Branching out: Catholic kids offer comfort to Jewish neighbors

Tree of life: Kids at St. Savior Catholic Academy donated an orange tree decorated with white doves to Congregation Beth Elohim.
Congregation Beth Elohim

Students at a Park Slope Catholic school trekked to a local synagogue to gift their Jewish neighbors an orange tree, in memory of a massacre that claimed 11 lives at a Pittsburgh temple last year. The act of interfaith generosity allowed the kids to take an active and positive role in one of America’s darkest episodes, according to a parent.

“These kids are seeing an increase in hate crimes in New York City, and in our country,” said Sandra Rossier, who organized the event. “This is about giving them a tool to combat that hate, and trying to teach them acts of love, acceptance, and compassion.”

For the project, kids at Eighth Avenue’s St. Savior Academy folded 11 white origami doves — one for each victim of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in October — which they attached to the small fruit tree. The students then loaded it into a little red wagon on Thursday, and marched the six blocks to nearby Congregation Beth Elohim on Garfield Place.

There they were greeted by representatives from the synagogue, along with some tasty snacks in honor of Purim, amid a ceremony that moved attendees to tears, according to Rossier.

“We stood around the tree and hugged each other, people cried, it was quite moving,” she said.

The students’ act of kindness couldn’t have come at a better time, according to a synagogue staffer, who said the tree will serve as a reminder of their friends in the Catholic church.

“Now, maybe more than ever, we need our Catholic, Muslim and friends of all faiths to come together and support one another,” said Director of Membership and Engagement Sam Sterling. “Every time we look at this incredible Tree of Life, we will remember this most important mitzvah that St. Saviour has done for us. They are true mensches!”

The tree will be kept indoors until the summer, when it will be planted to serve as the centerpiece to a children’s garden planned by the synagogue, Rossier said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Congregation Beth Elohim

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