Bound in the Bond of Life: Pittsburgh Writers Reflect on the Tree of Life Tragedy
Bound in the Bond of Life: Pittsburgh Writers Reflect on the Tree of Life Tragedy

Bound in the Bond of Life: Pittsburgh Writers Reflect on the Tree of Life Tragedy

by Beth Kissileff, Eric S. Lidji

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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 national 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, rabbis, and other community members, reveal a city’s attempts to cope, make sense of, and come to terms with an unfathomable horror. Here, members from the three impacted congregations are able to reflect on their experiences in a raw, profound way. Local reporters who wrote about the event professionally contribute stories that they were unable to articulate until now. 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. Rabbis share their process of crafting comforting messages for their constituents when they themselves felt hopeless.

By bringing local voices together into a chorus, they are raised over the din of national and international chroniclers who offer important contributions but do not and cannot feel the intensity of this tragedy in the same way as locals. 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, which serves individuals and families of all faiths throughout the Greater Pittsburgh community.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822987970
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
Publication date: 10/27/2020
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

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 University of Pittsburgh, the University of Minnesota, Carleton College, Smith College, and Mount Holyoke College.  Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Tablet, Religion News Service, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and the New York Times, as well as other places. 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.

Table of Contents

Foreword, Shribman, David,
Introduction, Lidji, Eric,
Here is Squirrel Hill, Pascal, Molly,
Closed Because of Yesterday, Goldstein, Andrew,
I read somewhere that Pittsburgh is stronger than hate, Norman, Tony,
The News Next Door: On covering a neighborhood terror attack, Belser, Ann,
Wire and String, Haworth, Kevin,
Imposter or Activist: Eight Years in Squirrel Hill, Oren, Avigail,
Pittsburgh Positive, Barker, Brooke,
Sharing Their Stories: Reciprocating the Compassionate Response to the Tree of Life Massacre, Eisenberg, Laura Zittrain,
Processing, Lidji, Eric,
Honey From the Carcass, Kissileff, Beth,
Lisa's Tango Survival Strategy, Brush, Lisa D.,
The Day They Honored, Jablow, Susan,
Covering the Unprecented, Smith, Peter,
Memorialization, Mourning, Surviving: Reflections, Potentialities, and Distractions from the Jewish Past 1, Shear, Adam,
Finding the Vessels, Yolkut, Rabbi Daniel,
Shocked, Not Surprised, Weiner, Arlene,
Eleh Ezcarah: Nusach Pittsburgh, Perlman, Rabbi Jon,
Keith Way, Robertson, Campbell,
The Last Day I Felt Safe as an American Jew, Tabachnick, Toby,
Walking Is My Tribute, Schachter, Abby,
After the Outpouring, Bernstein, Jane,
Fall Semester 2018: Shock and Fear Grip a College Classroom, Burstin, Barbara,
"You Will Get Through It", Hurwitz, Linda,
Afterword: As Well As Can Be Expected, Kissileff, Beth,
Acknowledgements, Kissileff, Beth et al,
Contributors bios, —,


Brooke Barker is a writer and illustrator, and the author of the New York Times Bestselling book Sad Animal Facts and the book Sad Animal Babies. Her work has been translated into nine languages and she is a contributor to the New York Times, The Stranger, Lenny Letter, and The Guardian.

Ann Belser founded Print, Pittsburgh's East End Newspaper in 2015 after working at the regional metropolitan newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for more than 20 years. She now runs the newspaper with her wife, Jan Kurth. She has a master's degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and in addition to her daughter, she has a son who is the 2017 National Marbles Champion.

Jane Bernstein is the author of five books, among them the memoir Bereft - A Sister's Story, and her new novel, The Face Tells the Secret. She is a lapsed screenwriter and an essayist, whose grants and awards include two National Endowment Fellowships in Creative Writing and a Fulbright Fellowship in Israel. She is a professor of English and a member of the Creative Writing Program at Carnegie Mellon University.

Barbara Burstin is an instructor at both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University, where she teaches courses on the Holocaust and American Jewish history. She is the author of several books, including After the Holocaust: The Migration of Polish Jews and Christians to Pittsburgh, Steel City Jews, and Sophie! The Incomparable Mayor Masloff.

Lisa D. Brush is Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh and member and former Vice President for Ritual, Congregation Dor Hadash.

Laura Zittrain Eisenberg is Teaching Professor in the History Department at Carnegie Mellon University, where she specializes in modern Middle East history. She holds a Ph.D. in modern Middle East history from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (1990). Laurie’s areas of research, publication and teaching include the Arab-Israeli conflict and peace process. She sits on the board of Tree of Life Congregation, where her family are third generation members.

Andrew Goldstein is a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He was part of the Post-Gazette team that received a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the October 27 shooting.

Kevin Haworth is a novelist, essayist, and literary translator and winner of a 2016 NEA Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction. His most recent books are Far Out All My Life, an essay collection, and The Comics of Rutu Modan: War, Love and Secrets, a book-length study of Israel’s most prominent comics artist. He lives in Pittsburgh and teaches at Carnegie Mellon University.

Linda F. Hurwitz is the former Director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh from 1988-2005. Under her supervision, the all volunteer project with many local Holocaust survivors produced the book, Flares of Menory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust(Oxford University Press), edited by Anita Brostoff with Sheila Chamovitz. She was an English teacher and Head of the Middle school at Community Day School for ten years, teacher at CMU Osher Lifetime Learning and other adult education programs at Chatham College and at Pitt’s Informal Studies.

Susan Jacobs Jablow is a Pittsburgh-based journalist, essayist and grant writer. She is a former staff member of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and has been published in numerous other publications. She is a graduate of Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Beth Kissileff is the author of the novel Questioning Return and editor of the essay collections Reading Genesis: Beginnings and Reading Exodus: Journeys( forthcoming 2021). She has taught at the Universities of Pittsburgh and Minnesota, and at Carleton College, Smith College and Mount Holyoke College. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the New York Times, Tablet, Haaretz, and the Michigan Quarterly Review, among others.

Eric Lidji is the director of the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Tony Norman is a general interest columnist and the book review editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. An award-winning columnist and feature writer, he was the recipient of a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan for 2005-2006. Tony is currently the vice president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and a board member of both the International Free Expression Project and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. For nearly two decades, Tony was an adjunct journalism professor at Chatham University. He's currently working on a novel and a book of essays.

Avigail Oren earned her Ph.D. in History from Carnegie Mellon University in 2017, and since then has been an independent scholar, entrepreneur, and activist. She also serves as co-editor of The Metropole, the blog of the Urban History Association.

Molly Pascal is a freelance writer, native Pittsburgher, and member of Tree of Life. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Lithub, the New York Times, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Salon, the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Fringe Literary Magazine, and, among others. Short stories and essays have received awards or honorable mention from Glimmer Train, Profane, and Pen Parentis.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman has been the spiritual leader of New Light Congregation since 2010. He is also the chaplain and spiritual coordinator at the Institute of Palliative and Supportive Care at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. A Pittsburgh native, he is known as an interfaith leader and creative writer and teacher.

Campbell Robertson is a New York Times national correspondent based in Pittsburgh.

Abby W. Schachter is a research fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy. She is the author of No Child Left Alone: Getting the Government out of Parenting (Encounter Books, 2016). Abby is raising four children with her artist husband Ben Schachter in Pittsburgh, PA.

Adam Shear teaches Religious Studies, Jewish Studies, and History at the University of Pittsburgh. His scholarly interests focus on early modern Jewish culture and thought, with a particular interest in the history of Jewish books and the impact of printing on Jewish culture. He and his family have lived in Squirrel Hill since 2002.

David Shribman was executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette during the Tree of Life massacre. A Pulitzer Prize winner himself, he led the coverage of the episode that won the 2019 Pulitzer. He has since become a scholar in residence at Carnegie Mellon University and visiting professor at McGill University. He writes a column nationally syndicated in the US and a separate column for the Globe and Mail newspaper in Canada.

Peter Smith is Religion Editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He was part of the Post-Gazette team that received a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the October 27 shooting.

Toby Tabachnick is the editor of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.

Arlene Weiner is a poet and playwright active in several poetry groups in Pittsburgh. She has been a Shakespeare scholar, a college instructor, a cardiology technician, and an editor. Ragged Sky published two collections of her poetry, Escape Velocity (2006) and City Bird (2016). Arlene earned her PhD in English and American Literature at Brandeis and has held a fellowship to the MacDowell Colony.

Rabbi Daniel Yolkut studied in Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel, and in Yeshiva University's Yeshiva College, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, where he was ordained. He has served in the Rabbinate since 2000, and since 2010 as the spiritual leader of Congregation Poale Zedeck in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, where he and his wife Anna are raising their six children.  

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