Members of the unit meet with members of the Pittsburgh Community. (United Hatzalah Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit)

“Whenever people see us, they holler out, ‘No one is like Israel. Thank you!’ It’s really incredible,” psychologist Einat Kauffman commented.

United Hatzalah of Israel’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit volunteers returned from the US on Friday after spending five days in Pittsburgh working with various community members to help them process their grief following the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue last Saturday in which an anti-Semite gunned down 11 Jewish worshippers and wounded several others.

Unit Director Miriam Ballin, together with Deputy Director of the Unit Rabbi Avi Tenenbaum, psychologist Einat Kauffman and social worker Hadas Ruham, undertook the mission to assist those affected by the attack.

Ballin said that the team “quickly realized that we won’t be around to help treat people on a continuous basis and that the best thing we could do for the community would be to empower them to help themselves.”

Ballin and the team began training leaders of the community, both adults and teens who are old enough, to use the models and tools that the unit uses in crisis situations, to help those whom they recognize to be in distress.

“We sat with educators, the staff of schools and the JCC and we’ve trained them to be able to deal with the immediate psychological needs of the people that they are caring for,” Ballin explained.

Team members also held a number of open houses for community members who felt that they wanted advice or help following the incident.

“We wanted to reach out to as many different groups in the community as possible during our short stay here,” said Tenenbaum.

‘No One is Like Israel’

Members of the unit said that the sense of solidarity they felt from the community is beyond what they had expected.

While the team came to show the community that Israelis stand with them, “it is the community here who has shown us what solidarity really means. Whenever we walk around the street, people recognize us and automatically know that we have come from Israel and they do everything they can to show us how much they respect that,” said Kauffman.

“People have stopped to buy us coffee and invited us for meals. Whenever people see us they scream out of their doors, ‘No one is like Israel. Thank you.! It is really incredible,” she said.

Numerous dignitaries from the community, as well as emergency service personnel, also met with the team members to express their thanks for the work that the unit has done. The Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh was one such individual who invited the unit to meet with her in an effort to thank them for their efforts.

The team wrapped up their operations and headed back to Israel on Friday morning.

“We feel that we have accomplished a lot, but we know that there is still a lot to be done. Our hope and prayer is that we have helped empower the community enough so that they will be able to continue the work that we have begun here. From what we’ve seen, through the unity displayed by the various groups in this city, our hopes and prayers will likely be answered,” Ballin concluded.

Cari Immerman, United Hatzalah’s Regional Coordinator in the Midwest, is still in Pittsburgh and assisting residents with whatever else is needed.