Cantor Advocates Tolerance in Children’s Book on Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre Aftermath

The cover of "That's What Friends Do!"

January 28, 2021

A Jewish cantor from Northbook, Illinois, has penned a children’s book — set in the aftermath of the October 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre — to promote a message of tolerance.

The author of That’s What Friends Do!, Cantor Steven Stoehr, grew up in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh where the Tree of Life synagogue is located.

He wrote the book as a way to help his old community heal.

“I don’t know how these children will grow up and what professions they’ll take on in their lives,” Stoehr told the Chicago Tribune, referring to readers of his book. “And it doesn’t matter their religion, their race, their height, their neighborhood — it doesn’t matter. I don’t know what they’ll grow up to be. I just hope they grow up to be good people and friends to people that need them.”

After the Tree of Life attack, Stoehr contacted the synagogue’s rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, and learned that the wooden leg of one of the shul’s Torahs had been damaged.

Stoehr and colleagues from the Cantors Assembly later gifted the synagogue a new Torah cover.

This sparked a children’s story idea in Stoehr’s head.

The plot focuses on a Torah scroll that was present during the shooting and the friendship it develops with a Torah cover later given to the synagogue.

All profits from sales of the book will go to the synagogue.

Rabbi Myers told the Chicago Tribune, “While the field of children’s books has many wonderful options to help children cope with the loss of a loved one, the horror of massacres is far more difficult to write about in a meaningful way. Cantor Stoehr has written a wonderful book that tells a beautiful story that is a welcome addition to children’s literature.”

Read more at the Chicago Tribune here.