On October 27, 2018, three congregations were holding their morning Shabbat services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood when a lone gunman entered the building and opened fire. He killed eleven people and injured six more in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history. The story made international headlines for weeks following the shooting, but Pittsburgh and the local Jewish community could not simply move on when the news cycle did. The essays in this anthology, written by local journalists, academics, spiritual leaders, and other community members, reveal a city’s attempts to come to terms with an unfathomable horror. Here, members from each of the three impacted congregations are able to reflect on their experiences in a raw, profound way. Local journalists who covered the story as it unfolded explore the personal and public aspects of reporting the news. Activists consider their work at a calm distance from the chaotic intensity of their daily efforts. Academics mesh their professional expertise with their personal experiences of this shattering event in their hometown. A local rabbi shares his process for crafting messages of comfort even as he attempts to reckon with his own feelings.
Bringing these local voices together into a chorus raises them over the din of international chroniclers who offer important contributions but cannot feel the intensity of this tragedy in the same way as Pittsburghers. The essays in this anthology tell a collective story of city shaken to its very core, but determined that love will ultimately win.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Jewish Family and Community Service of Pittsburgh (https://www.jfcspgh.org/), which serves individuals and families of all faiths throughout the Greater Pittsburgh community.
Raw and profound.
The voices that animate this collection are varied and stunning.
Bound in the Bond of Life is a document to be read and contemplated, not summarized—a close-to-the-event memorial that expresses grief, the search for understanding and the effort to find a way forward.
Bound in the Bond of Life does more than humanize a historic event: it gives us the rare opportunity to see what happens ‘after the vigil,’ in the apt words of contributor Molly Pascal.
The impact of the attack that claimed 11 lives . . . was also extraordinarily local. It happened in Squirrel Hill, a neighborhood most Pittsburghers know well, and many area residents have only a degree or two of separation from that day’s violence. Bound in the Bond of Life reckons with that legacy.
Gathering accounts from local journalists, academics, rabbis and community members, Eric Lidji and Beth Kissileff reveal efforts to make sense of the shooting, from raw, first-person descriptions to pieces by those who translated the horror into activism.
What does it take to mend the world? Parts prayer, howl, remembrance and meditation, the essays in Bound in the Bond of Life go beyond the initial shock and grief of October 27th to examine the meaning of community and the power of faith under attack. Rather than make sense of hate, the Pittsburghers here wisely try to find perspective on a moment evil struck too close to home.
This sterling collection of essays by writers from Pittsburgh reflecting on the October 27, 2018 massacre of Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue gives us just the company we need as we work through our collective grief, together and alone. I was stunned by their deep, generous insights into how this tragedy affected this dynamic and diverse city and by the writers’ compassion for both the victims and survivors. By turns devastating and consoling, each of these reflections takes us a little further down the path to healing, despite community wounds and losses that can never be fully mended or compensated.
Taking its place in the somber tradition of heart-rending Jewish chronicles, Bound in the Bond of Life memorializes the Tree of Life synagogue massacre, the most deadly act of antisemitism in all of American Jewish history. Filled with heart-rending, first-person accounts, this book fulfills a sacred commandment: to recall the tragedy that befell Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, and never to forget it.
It is a depressing reality that, in America today, mass shootings come and go with the news cycle in a depressing blur of sameness, marching us from one shattered community to the next. Parkland. Charleston. Newtown. Orlando. Las Vegas. Yet, people who cherish each of these communities are left to step into each new day differently, along different streets, through different histories and toward different tomorrows. It’s important to know them as unique places with unique people. This anthology provides that for the tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue by uniting a range of talented local writers who explore the loss of eleven lives and the special community that Squirrel Hill was, and is.
Beth Kissileff is the author of the novel Questioning Return and editor of the essay collections Reading Genesis: Beginnings and Reading Exodus: Journeys. She has taught at the universities of Pittsburgh and Minnesota and Carleton, Smith, and Mount Holyoke colleges. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the New York Times, Tablet, and Religion News Service, among others. She is the spouse of Rabbi Jonathan Perlman of New Light Congregation, who survived the October 27 attack by hiding himself and others.
Eric Lidji is the director of the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center. He is the author of John Riegert and The Seventeenth Generation: The Lifework of Rabbi Walter Jacob and a co-editor of Her Deeds Sing Her Praises: Profiles of Pittsburgh Jewish Women. He writes extensively about the Jewish history of Western Pennsylvania and hosts the local Jewish history podcast The Cornerstone. He has been overseeing the effort to preserve documentation of the October 27 attack.