WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com — Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, where a gunman killed 11 people in 2018, will be receiving $6.6 million in state funding to help rebuild the synagogue, Governor Tom Wolf announced in a news conference Monday.
The governor was joined at the news conference by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa and members of the Tree of Life’s REMEMBER. REBUILD. RENEW campaign to announce how the state funding will help “transform the site of the worst antisemitic attack in U.S. history into a new place of hope, remembrance, and education.”
“Following the tragedy that occurred here, Pennsylvanians came together in solidarity to support the Tree of Life and the other congregations,” said Gov. Wolf. “We continue to stand with you today as the Tree of Life community works to reimagine this space into a welcoming place of reflection, education, and healing.
“I am proud to join you by providing this state funding to the Tree of Life’s efforts to remember and rebuild here and create a place for residents and visitors from around the world to reflect, learn, and grow.”
The funding for the renovations was provided by the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).
“We are tremendously thankful to Governor Wolf for this significant and generous investment in our effort to establish a new and reimagined space that serves not only our congregation but all of Tree of Life’s neighbors and the broader community,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Myers. “Our campaign and the grant that comes in support of it provide an opportunity to collectively renew our resolve to fight antisemitism and bigotry of all kinds, as we continue our journey of healing.”
According to Governor Wolf, the funding will create spaces for worship and education, as well as, to commemorate those who lost their lives in the tragedy. A new home for exhibitions and public programs of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh will be included.
”Tree of Life has been near and dear to me for many years – since I grew up just a few blocks away, to representing Squirrel Hill in the state senate, to grieving with this community in the past years,” said Sen. Costa. “Its history is long, but so is its future and I’m honored to be even just a small part of the REMEMBER.REBUID.RENEW project.”
“For decades, this special place has housed joyous and important life events and enriched the spiritual and cultural lives of countless families,” said Representative Dan Frankel. “With state funding, along with the vision and hard work of community members, we can help restore the Tree of Life building to its work as a spiritual home alongside of its new and crucial role as a witness to history.”
Eleven people were killed and seven were wounded in the antisemitic attack at the Tree of Life on Oct. 27, 2018.
In 2019, Gov. Wolf honored the victims during a trip to Lithuania and Poland. The governor carried a mezuzah from inside the synagogue with him as he visited Paneriai and Auschwitz-Birkenau, two prominent locations of atrocities against the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
The governor also wrote the names of the 11 victims in the guestbooks at both locations with the intent of memorializing them in perpetuity. Following the trip, the governor returned the mezuzah to Rabbi Myers.
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