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A ceremony signals the beginning of reconstruction for the Pittsburgh synagogue attacked in a mass shooting driven by antisemitism

Rabbi Jeffery Myers giving the speech (Via Finn West/Getty Images)

Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro were among the officials participating in the groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday for a new building to replace the Tree of Life synagogue. In 2018, 11 worshippers were killed in a horrific act of antisemitism, marking it as the deadliest incident of its kind in U.S. history.

The new complex will feature a cultural center, sanctuary, educational facility, and museum, along with a memorial honoring the victims from three congregations who lost their lives on October 27, 2018. Renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, known for designing Jewish museums, Holocaust memorials, and the World Trade Center redevelopment after 9/11, is behind the new design.

Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a U.S. president or vice president, expressed that the ceremony was intended to convey a powerful message. He emphasized the need to never forget the devastating impact of antisemitism.

Josh Shapiro gives remarks during the ceremony (Via Finn West/Getty Images)

“We are transforming what was once a tragic crime scene into a place of hope and inspiration – a beacon of light,” Emhoff remarked, having previously met with survivors and families affected by the Tree of Life attack.

Survivors, including Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of Tree of Life, spoke during the ceremony. Myers declared that the new construction symbolizes resilience against evil, affirming that it could never drive them away from their spiritual home.

Governor Shapiro, who is Jewish, shared a personal reflection, recalling that one of the bibles he used for his inauguration 18 months ago was from the Tree of Life. He stressed the importance of remembering and educating others about the tragic events, urging people to confront and speak out against antisemitism.

“In today’s world, too many people overlook or ignore the lessons of history,” Shapiro said. “Remembering requires us to stand up, speak out, and ensure that everyone understands the stories of the 11 individuals who lost their lives here – and the ongoing threat of antisemitism.”

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