Tree of Life tragedy to be remembered throughout campus, city

Images from "Lest We Forget" exhibit

As Pittsburgh prepares to mark one year from the Tree of Life synagogue shootings, several events are being planned on the Oakland campus and throughout the city.

The mass shooting at the Tree of Life, Dor Hadash, and New Light Congregations in Squirrel Hill took the lives of 11 people on Oct. 27, 2018.

Student-led exhibit

A new exhibit in the William Pitt Union was the brainchild of six Pitt undergraduate students to highlight student responses to the mass shooting.

The six students — Emily Dickson, Kruthika Doreswamy, Maja Lynn, Drew Medvid, Liam Sims and Claire Singer — collected physical items from the aftermath of the shooting and created an online survey that asked students six questions about their experiences in the wake of the Tree of Life tragedy. An anonymous archive of these responses is available and new submissions are encouraged.

All the items in the physical exhibit, as well as the collections that could not be displayed in the space, can be found on the website,

In addition, the site includes resources on combating antisemitism, an archive of Pitt student organization social media posts, the survey archive, and a list of recommended books, essays, films and more.

Working through the University’s Office of Undergraduate Research, the students have received extensive consultation from the Heinz History Center’s Rauh Jewish Archive, Pitt’s School of Social Work, and the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. This initiative was funded by the Gilboa fund. They also collaborated with several faculty members.

The exhibit will move to the Department of History in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences on Oct. 17. Any upcoming events can be found here.

‘Lest We Forget’

From Oct. 18 to Nov. 15, the pathway from the Cathedral of Learning to Heinz Memorial Chapel will be filled with 60 life-size portraits of Holocaust survivors, including 16 from the Pittsburgh region. It’s part of a traveling art exhibit called “Lest We Forget,” featuring photographs from German-Italian artist Luigi Toscano.

The art installation has been displayed in prominent locations around the country, including the headquarters of the United Nations and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and internationally in Austria, Belgium and Ukraine. According to Toscano, the large portraits are intended to raise awareness of the hate and bigotry that exist in today’s world and are intentionally placed in open settings like parks or public squares so that they are accessible to everyone. 

“During Pitt’s Year of Creativity, we are bringing in a work of art that speaks to one of the critical issues of our time,” said Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement. “A year after the Pitt community gathered on the Cathedral lawn to commemorate the victims of the shooting at Tree of Life, they will walk through the same part of campus and see the faces of Holocaust survivors reminding us that the battle against hatred and prejudice is a struggle for the ages.”

The free exhibit will be held here at Pitt in partnership with the Holocaust Center of PittsburghDownload a flyer for more information about the exhibit.

Pittsburgh October 27: Remember. Repair. Together.

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.

Other activities

  • 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.