Pittsburghers came together on the night of Oct. 27 to remember the victims of the worst antisemetic attack in U.S. history.
Four years ago on that night in 2018, a stunned and mournful crowd of hundreds gathered underneath a gray sky in a light rain at the corner of Forbes and Murray avenues in Squirrel Hill, just hours after 11 Jewish worshippers were killed inside the Tree of Life synagogue.
Hundreds came together again this year in Schenley Park, in the late-day sun under a clear blue sky, to hear messages of courage, hope and resistance in the face of hatred. And they remembered how — on what was perhaps Pittsburgh’s bleakest day — the community came together to support its Jewish residents.
“All around us, our remarkable city and region showed up for its Jewish minority, wrapped their arms around us, figuratively and literally,” said Lauren Bairnsfather, director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. “Those were the best hugs ever.”
Similar to 2018, a large portion of the Pittsburgh community was represented at the memorial service.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Councilwoman Erika Strassburger read “A Prayer for Our Country.” Several other state and local politicians were also in attendance, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro.
The choir of East Liberty’s Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church sang “I Need You to Survive” and “The Blessing,” and the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus sang “Peace Round,” “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “Now I Walk in Beauty.”
Hannah Kaye — the daughter of Lori Kaye-Gilbert, who was killed in the attack at the Chabad of Poway, Calif., six months after the massacre at Tree of Life — recited the traditional Jewish prayer for the healing of the body and soul, “Mi Shebeirach.”
Attendees remained focused on those lost in the massacre, who belonged to three congregations all housed in the same synagogue building: Tree of Life, New Light and Dor Hadash.
One by one, family members of each victim walked on stage to light a candle for those lost: Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, married couple Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger.
Bairnsfather also noted the recent loss of a massacre witness and Holocaust survivor, Judah Samet. Samet, 84, died in September.
Despite the somber tone of the event, Audrey Glickman, a longtime member of Tree of Life who survived the mass shooting, said she wants to remember the victims for the joy they brought to the world, not how they died.
“I am determined this year to remember the smiles of each of these people. That’s what I’ve been doing today,” she said. “I can’t be sad anymore, because they were not sad people. They were happy people filled with light.”