(October 24, 2019 / JNS) The Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh announced on Facebook plans to reopen its building following the deadly shooting almost one year ago on Oct. 27, 2018, when 11 Jewish worshippers were shot and killed during Shabbat-morning services by a lone gunman.
The congregation will continue to use the building as a place of worship, but will also utilize the space for classrooms, exhibits, a memorial to commemorate the lives lost in the mass shooting, education and social events.
“We are poised to become an incredible center for Jewish life in the United States,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Myers from Tree of Life. “When we reopen—and we most certainly will—I want the entire world to say, ‘Wow. Look at what they have done.’ To do anything less disrespects the memory of our 11 martyrs.”
The Tree of Life congregation will hire a strategic-planning consultant, and families of the shooting’s victims, in addition to incident witnesses, community leaders and congregation members, will be able to sit in on eight listening sessions throughout the hiring process for the consultants. A fundraising consultant will also be brought in to raise money for the reopening, which does not have a set date yet.
Sam Schachner, president of Tree of Life, said the rebuilding effort will be “victim-centered, collaborative, sensitive and caring,” and that they “will not let this attack destroy us.”
He said, “When something bad happens, we have three choices. We can either let it define us, let it destroy us, or we can let it strengthen us. We will not let this attack destroy us. And we will not let this attack define us as a congregation.”
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