Ma’oz Tzur

Ma’oz Tzur translates to “Rock of Ages” and is the title of a medieval Jewish liturgical poem traditionally sung on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. It details several instances of persecution, destruction, and tragedy in the history of the Jewish people, and calls upon the “Rock of Ages” as a source of strength and refuge in these dark times and to “let out house of prayer be restored.” In the tradtional interpetation, the “Rock of Ages” is an epithet for God. In our piece – what?

-Dani Plung

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When I first heard of the shooting in Pittsburgh, like many others I was sickened, angry, and hurt. But when I then heard from Dani that this attack happened in her very own community, and that she would most likely know some of those who had been killed, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to do. I felt hurt, angry, but most of all, disconnected from my friend by distance. I felt a need to help somehow, to reach across continents and tell her I was there for her.

I am so very honoured that I have been able to help give a platform to Dani’s remarkable heart and words. When she first sent me the script for this comic, I struggled to keep control of my emotions. I could see the hurt and the sadness. What I did not expect, and I think is a testament not just to the strength of Dani but to the Jewish community in Squirrel Hill, was her resilience. A refusal to let such an act define herself or her community. A way could be seen forward. A way that would involve coming home, and being with family and friends. And healing.

Dani was an ideal collaborator for this. She is an excellent writer, weaving in the centrality of her faith and beliefs and well aware of the themes she was dealing with both in word and in image. Her strengths particularly showed when we spoke about the numerous meanings and uses of fire that we wanted to portray – illumination, destruction, and introspection. She is also an attentive writer who listens to her artist. I myself am not Jewish, so drawing this proved to be an education. Dani’s patience throughout the process was much appreciated. Her advise on the depiction of ritual and on the historical contexts of the comic was much needed, and I think has made the comic so much more impactful than it would have been otherwise.

I hope, as she does, that this comic can help bring some healing into the Squirrel Hill community. Having spoken to her, I know it has helped Dani a great deal. I hope it continues to do so.

Thank you for reading.

-Andrew Sztehlo

This piece was originally published on 04 December 2018.

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