The Lead

Tree of Life allocated $6.6M in state funds for redevelopment efforts

By: - December 6, 2021 3:02 pm

Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers speaks during a press conference outside Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue with Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa on Dec. 6, 2021. (Screenshot)

To help transform what became a symbol of anti-Semitism in the United States into a source of hope and remembrance, Pennsylvania has awarded Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue $6.6 million in state funds for redevelopment.

“Following the tragedy that occurred here, Pennsylvanians came together in solidarity to support the Tree of Life and the other congregations,” Gov. Tom Wolf said outside of the Squirrel Hill place of worship on Monday. “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.”

Wolf, joined by Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers, Pittsburgh officials, and legislative leaders, highlighted the funding allocation, which comes after a gunman killed 11 worshippers and wounded six others in 2018.

“We will transform this site that has been marked by horror and the H-word into one full of hope, remembrance, and education,” Myers said during an afternoon press conference. “A beacon, not only to Squirrel Hill, nor Pittsburgh, nor Pennsylvania, nor the United States but to the world.”

Earlier this year, Tree of Life selected architect Daniel Libeskind, who served as the master planner for the Jewish Museum in Berlin and New York’s reconstructed World Trade Center, to redesign the synagogue and plans to share the space with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh

The funds discussed Monday come from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, a state grant program.

The final cost of the project and specific design features are still in the works, Myers said. Tree of Life also launched “Remember. Rebuild. Renew.” — a campaign to help support transformation efforts.

“We will create a place where people will be moved by the beacon of light that emanates from Tree of Life to the entire world, demonstrating that out of this horror, we have created a source of inspiration to all who seek it,” Myers added.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, and Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, whose respective districts include Tree of Life, announced the funding allocation earlier this month, saying the grant will transform Tree of Life into a “new place of hope, remembrance, and education.” 

In a statement, Frankel said the funding, “along with the vision and hard work of community members,” will help restore Tree of Life to a spiritual home and its “new and crucial role as a witness to history.”

“We remember that Tree of Life has always been a welcoming and caring and warm place for so many in our community from one generation to the next,” Costa told reporters Monday.

He added: “Tree of Life will reach beyond the walls that we know today and into all the neighborhoods in our community into a space of inclusion and collaboration.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks incidents of anti-Semitism through its Center on Extremism, reported 110 anti-Semitic incidents in Pennsylvania between 2020 and 2021.

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