Pittsburgh Jewish leader to light torch at Israel Independence Day ceremony


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will carry the torch set aside for Diaspora Jewry at Israel’s Independence Day ceremony.

Jeff Finkelstein has led the Jewish community’s efforts to cope and rebuild following the shooting attack on the Tree of Life synagogue building that left 11 worshippers dead. In the wake of the terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand, he established a fund for its victims on behalf of the Jewish community.

Finkelstein has served for over a decade as president and CEO of the Pittsburgh federation.

Miri Regev, Israel’s minister of culture and sports, and the chairwoman of the Ministerial Committee on Symbols and Ceremonies, said in a statement that Finkelstein “represents ‘the tree of life,’ the growing spirit of brotherhood and human togetherness, and the great soul of our Diaspora brothers and sisters. In his blessed work, Jeff Finkelstein expresses the spirit of greatness and social cohesion among our people as well as concern to spread the light of love of all humanity.”

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, congratulated Finkelstein on his selection to represent “the resilience and spirit of the Pittsburgh Jewish community” at the ceremony.

“Jeff’s leadership in the aftermath of the horrible Tree of Life shooting can serve as an inspiration for other Jewish leaders,” he said.

Other announced torch lighters include Gil Shlomo, a secondary school student from Sderot and one of the activists who organized November’s youth march from the Gaza border communities to Jerusalem; filmmaker Avi Nesher, whose teenage son was killed in a Tel Aviv hit-and-run earlier this year; Lt. Col. Shai Siman Tov, who was critically injured in the 2014 Gaza battle in Shejalya and now uses a wheelchair; singer Yehudah Poliker, who is known for songs delving into the identity of the children of Holocaust survivors; Iris Yifrach, Bat-Galim Shaer and Racheli Fraenkel, the mothers of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014; and Moran Samuel, a paraolympian rower who she works with a nonprofit that raises awareness for disabled people and their challenges.

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