Finish Lines: Aaron Meyer

Aaron Meyer serves as the Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel of South Hills in Mt. Lebanon. Originally from Erie, he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from The Ohio State University, a master’s degree and ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, and a certificate in gerontology from the University of Washington. He is married to Rabbi Emily Meyer and has two kids, Evelyn, 4, and Eli, 1. You may see him at the playground, walking his dog, Camille, or throughout the community as an avid runner.

What brought Pittsburgh onto your radar?

Growing up in Erie, we looked to Pittsburgh as the nearest “Big City.” Pirates games and the Community Design Center’s 63-mile bike ride brought me to town every year and showed off Pittsburgh’s best. A low cost of living, amazingly friendly people and a strong, historic Jewish community certainly didn’t hurt!

How did your expectations differ from the reality of moving here?

The South Hills of Pittsburgh are currently exceeding our expectations. While my wife, Emily, sometimes jokes that we managed to find a city just as hilly, cloudy and rainy as Seattle, from which we moved, Pittsbugh punches above its weight class in terms of culture, museums and kid-friendly attractions.

How do you comfort people during these tense times, especially in the wake of the Tree of Life shooting?

While everyone’s experience of trauma can be so different, there are some commonalities. It’s important to identify risk factors (discrimination, exposure to violence, stress and more), bolster protective factors (social supports, boundaries, principles and more), and feed resiliency (through hobbies, friends and family and more). Judaism and all faith traditions are at their best when they offer a wellspring of hope, even when feelings of optimism are repeatedly dashed.

What is your vision for Temple Emanuel?

Progressive religious communities of all stripes strive to embrace modernity with the highest values and aspirations of our age-old traditions close at hand. We strive to build sacred community, imbue participants with resilience, and develop feelings of connectedness to something greater than ourselves. At Temple Emanuel, this means embracing people as they are while pushing them to be more than they ever imagined possible. We will do it through the cultivation of conscience, encouraging people to live their religious values beyond the walls of the synagogue through civic engagement and social justice. We will do it by sharing holidays and life-cycle events and passing down traditions in contemporarily meaningful and relevant ways. And we will do it in living partnership with other faith traditions that share our values.

Finish this: “I’m happiest when I…..”

Witness moments of unbridled joy in my children. Complete a race as a runner. Finish a thought-provoking book. Bring meaning to life’s biggest moments in my community.