Jewish community plans remembrance events for Tree of Life tragedy


Three events will mark one year past the Oct. 27 mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, which killed 11 congregants and was deemed the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.

On Oct. 27, a commemorative ceremony will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland. The day will begin with an opportunity for community service (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Torah study at Rodef Shalom, 4905 Fifth Ave., Oakland (2 to 3:45 p.m.). The ceremony is open to the public; individuals or groups should register for the latter two events at

The website also will provide updates about these events or other, privately scheduled events commemorating the Oct. 27 attacks and offer space for tributes to the victims and background materials for members of the press.

Amy Bardack, director of Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, announced the events on behalf of organizers from the three congregations who use the Tree of Life building. She said that the families of the victims had decided “it is important … that there won’t be anything overtly political” or anything scheduled to take place outside the Tree of Life building, although she expected people would be drawn to gather there informally.

Organizers are not using the “anniversary” label, she added, because that connotes a joyous occasion. She also noted that, on the Hebrew lunar calendar that governs the annual cycle of Jewish holidays and sabbath Torah readings, Nov. 16 would be the actual day of remembrance this year. Given that not everyone in the community, including victims’ family members, is Jewish, Oct. 27 was chosen for the commemoration, leaving Nov. 16 for more private remembrances.

Other activities planned

  • On Oct. 26, Chabad House on Campus will honor Chancellor Pat Gallagher at its 31st Anniversary Celebration, during Pitt’s Homecoming Weekend. The focus of the evening is “to thank the chancellor for his support of Jewish life on campus and for his tremendous response after the Tree of Life tragedy that shook the world, including that of Jewish students at Pitt,” according the Chabad House. University trustees, alumni, parents, students, and community members are invited to participate in honoring Chancellor Gallagher. For information, email

  • On Nov. 10 and 11, Classrooms Without Borders will host a conference on “Antisemitism, Hate and Social Responsibility” at Rodef Shalom. The event is open to the public, but is geared toward academics, educators, clergy and students. Kathleen Blee, dean of Pitt’s Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, and Rachel Kranson, associate professor of religious studies, are two of the speakers. Others include Ken Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Michael Bernbaum, professor of Jewish studies at the American Jewish University, and Shannon Foley Martinez, a former neo-Nazi skinhead who now works to inoculate individuals against violence-based lifestyles and ideologies. The cost is $120 for the full conference or $75 for one day; discounts available for students. Register here.

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.