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Reaching out across miles, pain and culture: A program born of compassion

Growing Seeds of Love, Healing, and Hope: In memory and in honor of the Tree of Life Synagogue

Author: Sharon F. Cramer, Ph.D.

A decade ago, when Stan Swisher, the visionary gardener of the Erie Basin Marina Trial Gardens, was seeking new resources for the under-funded gardens, one of his Jewish volunteers gave him a great gift. She reached out to the Danziger horticultural firm in Israel. She knew that the family-owned company, begun shortly after Israel’s statehood was established, would eagerly donate to the expansion of a public garden in Buffalo. Her initiative led Stan to feel indebted to her, to the Danziger company, and therein to experience a connection to the Jewish community of Buffalo. A man eloquent with flowers, his expansion of the original gifts offers annual beauty. His gifts give us a public garden erupting with colors, textures, shapes that celebrate the original Danziger generosity.

In October, 2018, the wanton acts of violence in Pittsburgh pushed in on individuals throughout the world. Jewish community members read descriptions of the eleven who died at the Tree of Life synagogue, and recognized in them characteristics of their own friends, family, fellow congregants. Many acts to memorialize the members have taken place, and will continue to occur even after the synagogue reopens next fall.

Here in western New York, the sorrowful occurrence touched Stan Swisher, a man whose decade of connection to Israeli flowers led him to seek a way to mourn, to explicitly connect his garden to honoring of the eleven deaths. Through his quest, a program has been designed. It will take place at the Erie Basin Marina Trial Gardens. First, Stan Swisher will walk with us through the gardens (designed to be easy to navigate whether using feet or wheels). He will tell us about the flowers and plants that began in Israel, and now thrive among us, in western New York.

Then, in a seated, shaded setting, Yonina Andrea Foster, Ph.D. (Jewish educator, Song Leader, Cantorial Soloist, Spiritual and Ritual Leader) will offer connections between the flowers and Judaism. She will weave together relevant portions of the Torah, through readings, song, and meditation.

This is a Free event open to the community. Reservations are recommended. We encourage you to bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating. In the chance of inclement weather, a notice will be posted on the JCC website, and all registered participants will be notified by email no later than the morning of the event. The rain date is August 19 (note difference in times of two dates). For more information or to reserve your spot please call Katie Wzontek at 716-204-2084.

Join us to find ways to place loss in the context of regrowth, to remember the healing powers plantings offer. Enable us all to think together about tragedy and beauty. Come, and consider ways to let silent flowers speak for (and to) us all.


Coincidence, outreach, growth, tragedy, and a wish to give back – all these are the seeds of a free, open family event being sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on August 13, 2019.

Growing Seeds of Love, Healing, and Hope: In memory and in honor of the Tree of Life Synagogue

August 13, 2019 | Beginning at 2:00pm

Rain Date: August 19, 2019 beginning at 1:00

Erie Basin Marina | The Trial Gardens | 329 Erie St, Buffalo, NY 14202

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