The Squirrel Hill synagogue building that was the site of the worst antisemitic attack on U.S. soil is being reimagined as a museum, memorial and center for education to be known as Tree of Life.
The building has sat vacant since Oct. 27, 2018, when a gunman who still awaits trial killed 11 worshipers from Tree of Life and two other congregations (Dor Hadash and New Light) that shared the building.
The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh will merge into the new organization, creating a single local institution dedicated to ending antisemitism.
“Our path forward imagines a future without antisemitism, because we know all too well the pain and devastation it causes. Antisemitism is not just a Jewish problem. It is everyone’s problem, and we are all bound to actively work toward its end. We did not ask for this responsibility, but we cannot ignore it,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Myers in a statement released on Tuesday. Rabbi Myers, who survived the attack, serves as the honorary chair of the REMEMBER. REBUILD. RENEW. campaign.
The new Tree of Life organization will be led by a CEO and governed by a board of directors separate from the Tree of Life Congregation, which will worship in the building.
“My response to the attack on 10/27 is to create a space imbued with Jewish ideals. The design focuses on the key Jewish dimension of bringing light into darkness and creating an open and democratic space within,” said architect Daniel Libeskind, who was selected last year as the lead architect for the reimagined building.
Central to Libeskind’s design concept is the “Path of Light,” a skylight that will run the entire length of the building.
While parts of the building (including the chapel where congregants were killed) will be demolished, historic building elements, including the beloved stained glass windows, will be preserved. The design will tie the addition into the current limestone facade of the building.