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Tree of Life synagogue gets $6.6M in state funds for redevelopment

The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Liz Reid
90.5 WESA

The state of Pennsylvania has awarded $6.6 million for redevelopment of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, where a gunman killed 11 people in 2018 in the nation's deadliest attack on Jews.

The state funding will help "transform the site of the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history into a new place of hope, remembrance, and education,” the Wolf administration said in a news release.

Gov. Tom Wolf held news conference on Monday afternoon to discuss the funding, which comes from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Tree of Life was one of 16 community redevelopment projects statewide to receive a grant from the program.

“The Tree of Life is undertaking a project to remember the past to inform the present and promote healing for the future,” Wolf said.

Gov. Tom Wolf holds a menorah from Rabbi Jeffrey Myers outside of the Tree of Life synagogue on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.
Rebecca Reese
90.5 WESA
Gov. Tom Wolf holds a menorah from Rabbi Jeffrey Myers outside of the Tree of Life synagogue on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers noted the significance of Monday’s announcement, which took place at the end of the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah.

“It is indeed fitting that today is the last day of Hanukkah, a holiday that recalls the struggle of a minority community to maintain its right to live and worship as Jews,” Myers said. “Hanukkah means rededication, and that is indeed the journey that we are on.”

Tree of Life has previously selected architect Daniel Libeskind, the master planner for the reconstruction of New York’s World Trade Center, to redesign the sprawling synagogue complex, with plans to share space with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. The goal is to create a solemn memorial as well as a place of regular activity.

The defendant in the synagogue massacre awaits trial on more than 60 federal charges. Prosecutors are seeking a death sentence for 49-year-old Robert Bowers, who has pleaded not guilty.

Bowers opened fire during worship services inside Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018, killing eight men and three women and wounding seven others before police tracked him down and shot him, according to state and federal officials.

The former truck driver expressed hatred of Jews before and during the rampage and later told police that “all these Jews need to die,” authorities have said.
Rebecca Reese contributed to this report.

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Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA, 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.