1-year commemoration of Tree of Life synagogue shooting marked in Pittsburgh

A mother and son visit a memorial at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Sunday, the first anniversary of a shooting there that killed 11.
(Gene J. Puskar/ Associated Press)

The first anniversary of the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history was being marked around the world Sunday with community service projects, music and an online remembrance.

The shooting on Oct. 27, 2018, killed 11 and wounded seven at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. A steady stream of people visited the site on Sunday. Lining a fence outside the closed Tree of Life building were 11 flowerpots, each bearing the name of one of those killed. People also piled bouquets and crocheted hearts at the site and hung signs on the fence saying the city was “stronger than hate” and calling diversity its strength.

“Today we remember those we lost and come together as a commonwealth to stand united as neighbors,” said a Twitter message from Gov. Tom Wolf, who is scheduled to attend a memorial service in Pittsburgh on Sunday evening.


It shouldn’t have taken the Tree of Life synagogue attack near my Pittsburgh home for me to realize I needed to look more closely at the threat of extremist violence in my own country.

Oct. 27, 2019

Pittsburgh’s sports teams joined other organizations in remembering the victims. Steelers President Art Rooney II said fans will be asked at Monday night’s game to stand for a moment of silence for the victims and their families. The Pittsburgh Penguins said, “Hatred and discrimination have no place in Pittsburgh or anywhere else,” and the Pittsburgh Pirates said the memory of the victims “will always be a reminder that hatred has no place in our world.”

The synagogue’s three congregations now worship at two nearby synagogues. Last week, Tree of Life leaders unveiled their vision for the damaged building: a rebuilt space for places of worship; memorial, education and social events; classrooms; and exhibitions.

The Sunday commemoration’s theme is “Remember. Repair. Together.” It includes a private Jewish service, studying the portion of the Torah that was to be read when the shooting happened, opportunities to do community service, and a public memorial service.

Several hundred people had registered to volunteer at community organizations on Sunday. In Germany, the Clarion Quartet, composed of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians, was to perform at a special event in Berlin.

Thousands were expected to participate in Sunday’s remembrance through Pause With Pittsburgh, a virtual memorial event created by the Jewish Federations of North America.


Authorities charged Robert Bowers, 47, a truck driver from Baldwin, Pa., in the massacre. Investigators say he used an AR-15 rifle and other weapons, and posted criticism of an immigrant aid society on social media before the attack, claiming the Jewish charity “likes to bring invaders that kill our people.”

Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.