Pittsburgh council declares Oct. 27 ‘Remember Repair Together Day’ to honor Tree of Life
One of Pittsburgh’s darkest days will be officially known as “Remember Repair Together Day.”
Pittsburgh City Council and the mayor issued a proclamation Tuesday marking Oct. 27, the day in 2018 a lone gunman entered a synagogue in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood and opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring six others.
“We came together as a city in those moments afterward,” Mayor Bill Peduto said Tuesday, as survivors of the shooting and family members of those who were killed sat in city council chambers for a brief ceremony.
The Tree of Life building is home to the Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha congregation, along with the New Light and Dor Hadash congregations. Barry Werber, 77, of Stanton Heights, a member of the New Light, was at the synagogue that day.
“I just think it’s an amazing thing that the city decided to honor us this way, but I wish it hadn’t been necessary, and I wish more people would realize that hate is not what we need today, because that’s what caused all of this,” Werber said. “Just understand each other, understand the fact that life is so precious, and we need to get together and love and not hate.”
The proclamation was supported by the mayor and all members of council, who observed an 18-second moment of silence in honor of the victims.
Council President Bruce A. Kraus, reading a statement prepared by Councilman Corey O’Connor, whose council district includes part of Squirrel Hill, asked people to ponder the Hebrew word “chayah,” which means living. Erika Strassburger, whose district also includes part of Squirrel Hill, noted the abundance of support the region received from people around the country and around the world in the days after the shooting.
They “mourned with us,” Strassburger said. “It was an incredibly powerful show of respect, reverence and neighborly love.”
She called on people to continue to show that love for each other and to shift the definition of neighbor from someone who lives nearby to a “moral concept” of support for other people.
That support was evident and remains evident in Pittsburgh, Peduto said.
On the Monday after the shooting, Peduto said he was stopped by a teenage boy who presented him with a vase filled with fresh flowers.
When Peduto asked why he was given them, the boy told him, “You’re my neighbor; I love you.”
“In the darkest time of our city, there were little shimmers of light,” Peduto said. “That light was the strongest part of Pittsburgh. As we come to this anniversary, let us look for that light. Because it’s always there. It’s always around us, and it should be only during the darkest times that we can see it.”
Peduto’s sentiment was echoed by Tree of Life executive director, Barb Feige, who said it was meaningful for families and survivors to know the city continues its support.
The naming of the day references important Jewish concepts, she said. Remembrance is something Jews do regularly, especially for those who are lost, and the use of “repair” references a Jewish aim to improve the world, Feige said.
“We are here to make things better, to right wrongs and to make the world a better place,” Feige said. “We’re looking for light and life.”
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .