A Tree of Life
“Stands as an act of love toward humanity”
ABOUT THE FILM
On Saturday, October 27th, 2018, a white supremacist, further radicalized by the political climate at the time, walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue with four semiautomatic assault weapons, shouting “all Jews must die.” He murdered eleven congregants, ranging in age from 54 to 97, as they prayed.
A TREE OF LIFE creates a deeply personal portrait of the survivors, victims, and the victims’ family members of the Pittsburgh Synagogue attack, and brings into sharp focus the hate-based crisis that threatens our collective safety and the very social fabric of our society. As the first film to document the survivor’s stories and the only documentary with this level of personal access to the survivors and families of the victims, viewers will experience first-hand how the lives of those directly affected have profoundly changed and how the Pittsburgh community and the congregations set out on a path towards healing.
We hear the harrowing story of the attack through the voices of the family members of the slain: Michele Rosenthal, Anthony Fienberg, Andrea Wedner, and of those that survived on October 27th, 2018, Audrey Glickman, Dr. Joseph Charny, Stephen Weiss, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, Barry Werber, Andrea (and her husband Ron Wedner), Carol Black, and Daniel Leger and Augie Siriano.
While A TREE OF LIFE focuses on an anti-semitic attack on a synagogue, it is but one heartbreaking story in our national epidemic of violent hate crimes driven by anti-semitic, racist, and white supremacist sentiment. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, (now often referred to as “America’s Rabbi” following the Tree of Life attack) states: “It promotes a moral decay in humanity when you’re going to treat people as an “other” and think of them as less than human.”
The Hebrew phrase לברכה זכרונו” Zikhrono Livrakha” (translated: may their memory be a blessing)” has entered mainstream American conversation, shared among non-Jews as well as Jews, but in practice what does “may their memory be a blessing” mean? What does it mean in the face of unspeakable loss? What does it mean when it is practiced by an entire community and city? Is it a condolence, a remembrance, a guide for a better future? A TREE OF LIFE was made with the sacred memory of the victims and the lives of the survivors at the center of every production and artistic decision.
Extraordinary human strength and compassion is shared by survivor Dan Leger who was gravely injured in the attack and watched his friend, Jerry Rabinowitz, die in front of him. Dan recounts how in his darkest moments of recovery he relied on his Jewish faith to summon compassion for the shooter, and how he hopes to speakto the shooter face-to-face after court proceedings, in the correctional facility, in order to prevent further anti-semitic radicalization of other inmates by the shooter. There is so much to learn and consider from survivors’ stories and victims’ families about how we as a society might respond to the absolute worst of humanity with the deepest part of our reserves of personal and cultural good, and how we might unite in solidarity to create a safer and more peaceful world.
We follow the film’s subjects as they create blessings and mitzvahs from the memories of what the victims valued and believed in most , and draw from the good in their congregations, Squirrel Hill, and the wider Pittsburgh community. A TREE OF LIFE will contribute to this collection of blessings, created by those most affected by this heinous attack, by sharing the strength and insights of the survivors and the victims’ families; learning how the Pittsburgh and Squirrel Hill communities came together to reject hate, anti-semitism, and white supremacy at one of the city’s most vulnerable moments in its history; and considering the crucial issues, including gun control and online radicalization, that have created this moment of rising anti-semitic and racist hate in America.
“LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR" EDUCATION/IMPACT CAMPAIGN
A TREE OF LIFE presents a powerful opportunity to counter the rise of antisemitism, hate speach, and identity based discrimination through education and social action.
The A TREE OF LIFE “Love Your Neighbor” campaign is modeled after the courage, grace, and resilience of the Pittsburgh community, sharing a proactive strategy rooted in open conversation and education to build empathy, understanding and respect and to foster collaborative action.
Weekend long community activities and convenings, or Shabbatons, are the core of “Love Your Neighbor” campaign. Community weekends consist of a combination of facilitated activities based on individual community needs, including:
- Screening A TREE OF LIFE with interfaith healers
- A shared meal and community discussion
- Creative art-making or musical component
- Active shooter training through the Secure Community Network
- Policy discussions
Community weekends will be led by seasoned facilitators to guide community members through activities with sensitivity and intention. Film participants, as well as other Tree of Life community members and BIPOC Pittsburgh community organizations will participate in events as planning allows.
Together we can foster understanding and support for America’s diverse citizens and counter the rise of white supremacy and the increase of hate rhetoric
BECOME A PARTNER
MORE WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
DOWNLOAD DISCUSSION GUIDE
Download the free discussion guide here to help you lead a community discussion about A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting with facilitation tips, discussion prompts, key vocabulary, and resources.
SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN
You can also help out by supporting the film’s continued impact efforts. Your donations will help us provide resources and trainings to communities nationwide free of charge.