By Sarah Panzer
In the quiet neighborhood of North Oakland at 460 Melwood Avenue, Blumcraft Building 1 stands out against a landscape of brick ware-house style buildings with its colorfully painted windows, packed bike rack, and heavily graffitied mailbox. The windows of the second floor are lined with Black Lives Matter Signs and posters, and rows of carefully- painted butterflies contrast the red brick walls. The building still holds the name of the Blumcraft Company, a Jewish-owned metalwork firm that operated on the same street from 1946 to 2010. Today, it operates as an office space to several local social justice initiatives and artistic collectives in Pittsburgh, including Ratzon: Center for Healing and Resistance.
The name Ratzon comes from Hebrew word for “yearning and possibility.” It is appropriate then that the center serves as a space to hold events related to the LGBTQ+ Jewish experience, a mutual aid organization, and a host for the national Queer Jewish Youth Group Shulayim L’Shalom (“From margins to peace”). The center also hosts bi- monthly shabbat dinners open to all LGBTQ+ Jewish members of the Pittsburgh community. The organization’s unique emphasis of Jewish practice as a means of resistance, justice and activism, and mutual aid make it an essential organization not only to the Jewish LGBTQ+ community of Pittsburgh, but to all members of the community. The truly intersectional nature of Ratzon makes it indispensable in the fight against injustice in all forms.
Ratzon’s mutual aid organization, Ratzon food distro, has been increasingly active during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization is currently working in partnership with Pittsburgh Mutual Aid to provide food, gender-affirming clothing, household goods, financial support, and other resources to community members in need throughout Pittsburgh.
While in-person events at the center are temporarily suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a variety of events via zoom continue to be open to the public. Among these you will find daily meditations and daily drop-in Mishnah (ancient transcription of the oral Torah) Studies with SVARA. SVARA is a Yeshiva, or Jewish educational institution focused on the interpretation of religious texts, expanding the study of Jewish texts to all those who wish to learn. According to their website, they are a “traditionally radical yeshiva dedicated to the serious study of Talmud (ancient written collection of laws and traditions) through the lens of queer experiences,” and seek to empower the Jewish LGBTQ+ community through knowledge and critical interpretation of the Talmud.
Ratzon also hosts a weekly meeting of the Pink Peacock Digital Anarchist Havdalah (ritual at the end of Sabbath), which their website describes as “an anarchist, g-d optional collective ritual and discussion” open to “all jews, ppl [sic] considering conversion, & ppl [sic] invited by jews.” These opportunities for virtual connection that Razton continues to offer demonstrate the role of the organization in maintaining meaningful connections among members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community. The diversity of these events further demonstrates the role of Ratzon in catering to an intersectional Jewish community that they recognize as diverse in gender and sexual identity, class, political affiliations, and more.
It is an understatement to say that this work is essential to creating an inclusive Jewish community, both within the city of Pittsburgh and elsewhere. Perhaps this message is best conveyed by the homemade banner that hangs above the food pantry in the office, which reads in both Hebrew and English: “Another World is Possible.” It is clear that through organizing mutual aid, creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ Pittsburghers, and hosting community-building events, Ratzon is making strides towards it.
“Ratzon Logo.” Ratzon: Center for Healing and Resistance, https://www.ratzonpgh.org/#gallery_6-1
“About Svara: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva: Svara: A Traditionally Radical YESHIVA.” 23 May 2020. Web. 25 Mar. 2021.
Vellucci, Justin. “Jewish Nonprofit Supports the Marginalized in Healing and Resistance.” Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle 2020 Dec. 2020. Print.
“Ratzon: Center for Healing and Resistance.” Ratzon.org. Web. 25 Mar. 2021. https://www.ratzonpgh.org/
“The Blum Family.” Rauh Jewish Archives. John Heinz History Center. Web. 25 Mar. 2021.
How to Cite
MLA: Panzer, Sarah. “Ratzon Center for Healing and Resistance.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religions Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, 23 Sept. 2021, religyinz.pitt.edu/ratzon-center-for-healing-and-resistance/
APA: Panzer, S. (2021, September 23). Ratzon center for healing and resistance. ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh. https://religyinz.pitt.edu/ratzon-center-for-healing-and-resistance/
Chicago: Panzer, Sarah. “Ratzon Center for Healing and Resistance.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, September 23, 2021. https://religyinz.pitt.edu/ratzon-center-for-healing-and-resistance/