Tree of Life Congregation is collecting the backstories about many of the objects left at the makeshift sidewalk memorial following the Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting. Many of the items were left anonymously along the sidewalk at Wilkins and Shady Avenues in the days following the October 27, 2018 attack. Tree of Life is deeply appreciative of the public support which produced the makeshift memorial. We are working with a researcher to preserve these precious mementos and their stories.
Some of the items have obvious messages and relevance to the event, whereas others are intriguing because their intent is less clear. In all cases, the researchers are interested in knowing why donors chose the items they did; what messages they intended for victims’ families, survivors and visitors to the memorial; why they were motivated to contribute something more tangible than flowers; and how doing so made them feel.
Among the items about which little is known are: a marathon medal, high-top sneakers, Wallenberg leaves, a guitar, camp chairs, sports items, signs, notes, stuffed animals, and a nurse’s cross that was hand delivered on the November day that the memorial was dismantled. This archival project is also looking to identify the violinist and church choir who performed briefly on the sidewalk sometime during the two and a half weeks after the shooting.
We are proud of our neighbor’s immediate, compassionate response and support for the three affected congregations, Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light, that were in the Tree of Life building that day. Scholars and students will study the particulars of this terrible anti-Semitic assault for decades to come; this project aims to make sure the caring response of the community is fully documented for their review and intends to ensure that the stories are accurately recorded and preserved. With respondents’ permission, some of these stories may be referenced or recounted in published works about the memorial.
If you left something at the memorial, played an instrument or sang nearby, please share your story, so history records the full story. To share the story of an object left among the flowers, please go to www.treeoflifepgh.org/stories. We recognize that having contributed to the memorial may have been a personal and deeply emotional experience. If you are uncomfortable sharing your story, we respect that position and appreciate your gesture of a gift, nonetheless.
BACKGROUND Many of the mementos retrieved from among the flowers have been photographed and temporarily displayed. Eventually they will be professionally catalogued and preserved such that the collection will be available to researchers, historians and members of the public.