Five Years After Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack, Recovery Mixes With Fresh Grief

It has been five years since a gunman stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 worshipers and wounding six others in the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history.

A lot can happen in a half a decade. One of the three congregations that met at Tree of Life hired its first rabbi. New nonprofit organizations sprung up to serve survivors and others affected by antisemitism and violence. Plans to reconfigure and expand the building took shape, with a celebrity architect at the helm. And in August, the gunman was convicted on an array of federal charges and sentenced to death.

For some in the Tree of Life community, however, this year’s anniversary is not arriving with the sense of healing they hoped for. Weeks after more than 1,400 people were killed in a Hamas terror attack in southern Israel, many American Jews have felt their sense of safety shattered.

Now, Israeli airstrikes are pummeling Gaza, and the humanitarian crisis in the territory is worsening, with food and water in short supply and civilian deaths mounting.

But as many Jews in the United States are grieving the civilian deaths in Israel, and worried for families and friends there, some also feel abandoned by former political allies — including many of the same people and organizations that embraced Tree of Life five years ago.

Muslim organizations raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for victims in the weeks after the attack; Catholic parishes organized special collections. Thousands of people attended vigils, and statements of support poured in from across the world.

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