Artwork unveiled to surround Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

Artwork unveiled to surround Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh

Megan Guza
1665910_web1_ptr-treeoflifewindows01-091319
Megan Guza | Tribune-Review
A canvas full of artwork from students around the world is wrapped around the chain link fence surrounding the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill. The artwork replaces the blue tarps that went up around the building in the aftermath of the Oct. 27, 2018, massacre.
1665910_web1_ptr-treeoflifewindows03-091319
Megan Guza | Tribune-Review
Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers speaks about the artwork submitted from across the world to decorate canvas wrapped around the fence surrounding the building.
1665910_web1_ptr-treeoflifewindows04-091319
Megan Guza | Tribune-Review
From left to right: Tree of Life board member Laurie Zittrain Eisenberg, Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, New Light President Stephen Cohen and Dor Hadash past president Ellen Surloff on Sept. 12.
1665910_web1_ptr-treeoflifewindows02-091319
Megan Guza | Tribune-Review
Laurie Zittrain Eisenberg, a board member at the Tree of Life congregation, stands in front of a canvas wrapped around the chain link fence outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill. The artwork replaces the blue tarps that went up around the building in the aftermath of the Oct. 27, 2018, massacre.

Inspired by the hundreds of pieces of art sent from around the world in the aftermath of the Tree of Life synagogue attack, members of three congregations gathered those images of strength and hope and decided to share them with the community.

The Squirrel Hill synagogue has been shrouded in chain-link fencing and blue tarps ever since a gunman killed 11 congregants during Shabbat services on Oct. 27.

Many nearby residents felt the tarps attached to the fence looked desolate and depressing, said Laurie Zittrain Eisenberg, a board member at the Tree of Life congregation.

“We thought, ‘That’s not who were are,’ ” she said Thursday outside of the synagogue as the art was unveiled.

In April, the congregations of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, Dor Hadash and New Light put out a call for artwork to wrap the chain-link fence surrounding the building. All three congregations were housed in the building.

“In the aftermath of the attack, our neighbors, our city – people were so loving, so kind and they rushed to our side and they supported us,” Eisenberg said.

Many turned to artwork to express their heartache, their support and their hope, she said. The art made the congregations stronger, she said, and they were ready to project the strength back to the city.

“We realized that those blue tarps were really a blank canvas,” Eisenberg said.

Of the many online submissions received, 224 were technically viable — meaning the resolution was high enough to be printed.

A total of 101 were chosen to appear on the block-long canvas. Half of them are from students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. In 2018, a gunman killed 17 students and staff members at the school.

She said they also received submissions from Columbine High School in Colorado where, in 1999, two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher. Two submissions came from Newtown High School in Connecticut, where a gunman at the town’s elementary school killed 20 young children and six adults in 2012.

Looking at the artwork from Columbine and Parkland students, Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said, “That they’re able to go through what they’ve been through yet share with the world messages of hope is incredible.”

New Light President Stephen Cohen gestured to the artwork and said, “I think what we see here, in a word, is love.”

He read a poem by the ancient Chinese writer Lao Tzu:

Thirty spokes are joined in the wheel’s hub.

The hole in the middle makes it useful.

Mold clay into a bowl.

The empty space makes it useful.

Cut out doors and windows for the house.

The holes make it useful.

Therefore, the value comes from what is there,

But the use comes from what is not there.

“What you have here is that exterior,” Cohen said. “If you build something that is beautiful around the exterior, what is inside the heart lives … and allows the people – the victims, the congregation – to heal, to move on, and to be able to look for a day when this building will reopen as a site for prayer, for family, for community, for love.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.