Within the Tree of Life Synagogue, the positioning of the deadly taking pictures, a imaginative and prescient for transformation – NBC10 Philadelphia

When architect Daniel Libeskind was working on the master plan for the World Trade Center after September 11 in New York City, he faced a dilemma that he will now face in reviving another target of terrorist violence, the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh.

The question is how to “remember a terrible event that no one should ever forget and at the same time create beautiful, inspiring spaces in which people want to live and work,” Libeskind later wrote of the World Trade Center project.

“If you make it too brutal or too sad, no one will want to be there; If you wipe the slate clean and act like nothing happened, you’re just burying the pain and preventing it from healing, ”he wrote in his book Edge of Order.

Congregation Tree of Life / or L’Simcha officials recently announced the election of New York-based Mr. Libeskind as the lead architect for the rebuilding of their synagogue, which has been closed since October 27, 2018.

That Shabbat morning, a Sagittarius killed eleven worshipers from Tree of Life and two other churches that met there, Dor Hadash and New Light. Two other worshipers and four police officers were also injured in the attack. The suspect, who, according to the authorities, has expressed hatred of Jews online and locally, is awaiting trial on charges of capital.

Tree of Life’s selection committee considered proposals from around a dozen architectural firms, interviewed finalists, and believed that Mr. Libeskind had both the professional skills to lead the site renewal and the personal experience to demonstrate the importance of the project as a child of Holocaust Understanding survivors emigrated here with his parents after being exposed to the anti-Semitism of the communist era in Poland.

“He’s getting it,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who lived much of his life in metropolitan New York and saw the World Trade Center being remodeled after September 11 according to Mr. Libeskind’s master plan. Rabbi Myers sees in this project the many stories of those affected by September 11th as he creates a place that is both a memorial and a place of daily living and working.

“We are absolutely confident he can do the same here,” said Rabbi Myers, a survivor of the 2018 attack.

Preliminary plans for Tree of Life are to preserve the great main sanctuary, which was empty on the day of the attack.

Other parts of the complex, including the chapel and other locations where the murders were committed, are due to be demolished, although the historic stained glass windows of both the chapel and the sanctuary remain.

The reconstructed campus will also serve as the new home of the Pittsburgh Holocaust Center, which is now on the green field. The community plans to host programs with groups from the wider community.

After September 11th, Mr. Libeskind was selected as the master planner for the renovation of the World Trade Center. His plan, called “Memory Foundations,” was changed significantly with the involvement of architects, politicians, developers and others.

However, the end result contained important elements.

This included reserving the footprint of the original twin towers as a memorial and building a tower whose tower reaches the symbolic height of 1,776 feet. The tower is flanked by other buildings, leaving enough space to allow sunlight to spread over the landscape in the morning hours of every September 11th.

The memorial section leads visitors to the foundation of the site and symbolizes the “great foundations” from which New York rises to the desired heights of its skyline, said Libeskind.

Tree of Life – where the 10/27 date has meaning as it is 9/11 nationally – has its own needs for the location. This includes commemorating those lost in the nation’s deadliest anti-Semitic attack and providing a venue for Jewish worship and celebration, past and present intolerance education, and community building, all against the terrorist’s goals .

“Regardless of the transformation that is taking place, it is easy to say that this is an October 27th location and that is all,” Rabbi Myers said. “For me, that’s not what we want to be. We are ready to turn this place of massacre into something incredible that welcomes all people with so many different components: worship, study, reflection, creativity. For me the only obstacle is your imagination. “

He added, “I want it to be more than that, for people to come and have that ‘wow’ moment because of the architecture. I want the “wow” moment to be, “See how they turned a site of massacre into this beacon of hope.” ”

The Tree of Life congregation began worshiping at the nearby Rodef Shalom Congregation in Shadyside after the attack. Most of the community has worshiped online since the pandemic broke out, but hopes to resume personal worship soon. Dor Hadash and New Light, who also pray in nearby synagogues, have chosen to stay at their current locations.

“Rodef Shalom was and continues to be a wonderful host, but we look forward to returning to our own homes,” said Rabbi Myers. The community has been based on the corner of Shady and Wilkins Avenues for generations.

“It would have been easy to say that evil chased us out of our home and we couldn’t return,” he said. “We are ready to return.”

Mr. Libeskind, who will work with the Pittsburgh Architectural Group Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, will visit the site later this month to begin the design process. Tree of Life officials said they were convinced of his formulation of the architectural problems to be solved:

“The challenge in Pittsburgh is to create a powerful and unforgettable space that will tackle the worst anti-Semitic attack in US history,” he wrote to the community when they were looking for a senior architect.

“When my parents, Holocaust survivors, and I came to America as immigrants, we felt free as Jews in this country,” wrote Libeskind. “What happened in Pittsburgh made me reflect on that belief and ask the question, how do we mark the event while affirming America is the land of the free?”

He said the project had to address the current intolerance “and the all-too-brief memory of crimes against humanity”.

Hate is a “force that has shaped much of my life,” added Libeskind. Today “we see the flames of hatred fanned by leaders and politicians around the world.”

“Still, I wholeheartedly believe in the light and optimism of the human spirit – which we overcome by telling stories and raising our voices.”




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