By Marc Emral
Meryl Hattenbach only spent a day in Pittsburgh, but the Pittsburgh JCC staff was thankful.
Hattenbach, the program manager at the Dayton, Ohio, JCC, spent Dec. 17 in Pittsburgh as part of the JResponse team after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue there in October.
She, and others from JResponse, went to help the Pittsburgh JCC with daily tasks.
JResponse is part of the JCC Association of North America, that sends trained JCC professionals to help when a disaster strikes.
The shooting on Oct. 27 in which 11 were killed and seven others injured, left a strain on the staff in Pittsburgh.
“They were working much longer hours, and most of the staff basically had to drop what they were doing and respond to the crisis,” Hattenbach said. “People from the field were asked to come for a day or a couple of days to help JCC staff catch up with their work and also just come for moral support, honestly, just let them know people beyond the Pittsburgh community are still thinking of them.”
Hattenbach grew up in Roselawn graduating from Walnut Hills High School, and attending Adath Israel Congregation. Her parents Shelly and Edward Hattenbach still live in Cincinnati.
She said the work in Pittsburgh was not very exciting, but was needed.
“Personally I served lunch; they have a program where they serve seniors lunch,” she said. “And then I helped the human resources department with their backlog of filing.”
She said others helped in the fitness and aquatic centers.
The Pittsburgh JCC became “ground zero” for support after the shooting sort of by default, “… because people in the community are used to going there and they just found comfort there,” she said. “I was told the center initially set up for people to go for assistance and help and to get information (at Chatham University) that was located across the street from the JCC … but was moved to the JCC. That was where FBI and other organizations set up shop to assist the community.”
She was the only Dayton employee who went to help, riding up with another JCC employee from Indianapolis. “I was there with probably a dozen other people from all across the U.S.”
After the shooting in Dayton on Aug. 4, that left 10 killed and 27 injured, the Pittsburgh JCC staff signed a banner and sent it to Dayton.
“That showed they were with us in solidarity and sadly could sympathize with what we were going through,” Hattenbach said.