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Pittsburgh community remembers the 11 victims of a synagogue attack

NOEL KING, HOST:

Three years ago, a man with a gun opened fire during services at the Tree of Life synagogue building in Pittsburgh. He killed 11 people and injured six others. Yesterday, people in Pittsburgh commemorated the anniversary of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in this country's history.

Here's Julia Zenkevich from member station WESA.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEFFREY MYERS: (Singing in Hebrew).

JULIA ZENKEVICH, BYLINE: Friends and family of the people who died in the attack lit candles in their memory. Survivors, community members and regional officials also prayed in English and in Hebrew. Eric Lidji is the director of the Rauh Jewish Archives in Pittsburgh. He asked people to choose to remember the attack and those lost in it.

ERIC LIDJI: Our lives proceed along individual paths. We each have our own experiences and our own epiphanies. We each decide how to remember.

ZENKEVICH: Organizers of the event said that although the survivors will never forget the attack, they have been comforted by the people who choose to remember with them. The ceremony also honored the first responders to the attack. Faith leaders from other religions offered a statement of solidarity and implored people to call out antisemitism in their own communities.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers has been the leader of the Tree of Life congregation since 2017 and is a survivor of the attack. After the service, he recalled a phrase that was commonly repeated after the attack. He said people must choose to be stronger than hate.

MYERS: It's a choice. If we want to be stronger than it, we will be. We can choose to be stronger than it if we want to choose to be. I choose to be.

ZENKEVICH: At the close of the ceremony, attendees brought small stones to the stage as a physical remembrance of the 11 people killed in the attack.

For NPR News, I'm Julia Zenkevich in Pittsburgh. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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