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Three years after the Tree of Life shooting, Pittsburgh remembers the 11 worshippers killed

Three years ago today, a gunman killed 11 worshippers and wounded six others at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday in Schenley Park to honor those who died or were injured, condemn antisemitism and promote unity throughout the city.

A family member of 1 of the 11 worshippers killed during the 2018 attack lights a candle in their memory.
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
A family member of 1 of the 11 worshippers killed during the 2018 attack lights a candle in their memory.

The ceremony opened with remarks from Maggie Feinstein, director of the 10.27 Healing Partnership, a collection of interfaith and community leaders formed after the attack. The partnership helped to organize the remembrance, which included religious songs, poems and prayers read by worshippers and elected officials.

The Rev. Liddy Barlow, executive minister of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, said significant dates such as Oct. 27 still hold a lot of trauma for Jewish Pittsburghers, as well as everyone touched by the attack.

“This is another opportunity for us to reflect on what we’ve experienced together as a community,” Barlow said. “And another opportunity for us to reflect on the roads that we’ve been traveling since then, the intense connectivity of those initials days after the shooting and the ways that we can recapture that ‘best’ in ourselves through intentional memory and collective action.”

Stacey Wettstein, a Squirrel Hill resident, said she immediately called a friend who worshipped at Tree of Life after she heard about the attack. Her friend was fine, but the outreach and sense of unity in the city after the attack in 2018 made an impact on her.

“Relatives would call me and say, ‘I can’t believe what a close-knit community Squirrel Hill is,’” said Wettstein. “‘You’re so lucky to live there. People really care about each other.’”

The Tree of Life synagogue has remained empty since the deadly attack. On Wednesday, Carol Sikov Gross, president of the Tree of Life congregation, told WESA’s The Confluence the building’s redesign by architect Daniel Libeskind will help it become a place of “hope, remembrance, and education.”

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA and 91.3 WYEP, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community.