Chancellor: Tree of Life impact won’t go away anytime soon

Student looking at Holocaust survivor photo


As the Jewish community and all of Pittsburgh prepare to remember the Tree of Life shootings on Oct. 27, 2018, there are still scars that will linger for a long time.

Luigi Toscano“I don't think, an event of the scale and proximity of that attack in Pittsburgh goes away in any short period of time,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “I mean, an art exhibit just opened on our campus looking at survivors of the Holocaust. I think in some ways we're going to be dealing with (the Tree of Life) act of hate and its consequences forever.”

In the days right after the attacks, Pitt mobilized to support its neighbors and to spread the word that Pittsburgh is “Stronger Than Hate.”

“Pittsburgh has become kind of a symbol of how you can rally together, rather than apart. This kind of linking of arms that happened, that's where the Pitt community was right in the middle of it, along with every other Pittsburgher,” said Gallagher, who will be honored by Chabad House on Campus at a dessert reception on Oct. 26 at William Pitt Union for his leadership, commitment and dedication to Jewish student life and his quick and complete response at the time of the shootings.

The chancellor said he believes the coming together of Pitt and Pittsburgh has and will continue.

“I think there's a stronger sense, because it happens so close to home, that the only effective response to these isolated, incredibly hateful acts of violence is through unity and coming together, not standing alone,” he said. “And so you kind of don't want to lose that part of it and I don't feel like we have. And that's why even the Holocaust art (exhibit), it's a great kind of celebration of humanity and connections.”

The “Lest We Forget” exhibit features 60 larger-than-life portraits by German-Italian artist Luigi Toscano of Holocaust survivors — 16 of whom are from the Pittsburgh area. It will be on display along the walkways between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel until Nov. 15.

“We are living in a tense time. I think it is important that people remember the past,” said Toscano, who met and photographed over 400 Holocaust survivors from around the world for his traveling exhibit. “I would like to motivate other people, especially the younger generation, to stand up against hate.” 

For a complete story on the exhibit, go to PittWire.

A variety of other activities are planned this weekend and in the coming months to remember the Tree of Life tragedy and to explore other related issues.

  • A commemorative ceremony will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. Oct. 27 at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum. The day will begin with an opportunity for community service (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Torah study at Rodef Shalom, 4905 Fifth Ave., Oakland (2 to 3:45 p.m.). The ceremony is open to the public; individuals or groups should register for the latter two events at The website also will provide updates about these events or other, privately scheduled events commemorating the Oct. 27 attacks and offer space for tributes to the victims and background materials for members of the press.

  • Anniversary Dessert Reception Honoring Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, hosted by Chabad House on Campus: 8:30 p.m. Oct. 26, William Pitt Union, Tansky Family Lounge. $54; $100 per couple. For more information contact Register here.

  • To Those Who Grasp It: Responding to October 27”: An exhibit that highlights student voices in response to the shooting and its aftermath. 3702 Posvar Hall, through Nov. 30

  • Classrooms Without Borders will host a conference on “Antisemitism, Hate and Social Responsibility” on Nov. 10 and 11 at Rodef Shalom. The event is open to the public, but is geared toward academics, educators, clergy and students. Kathleen Blee, dean of Pitt’s Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, and Rachel Kranson, associate professor of religious studies, are two of the speakers. Others include Ken Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Michael Bernbaum, professor of Jewish studies at the American Jewish University, and Shannon Foley Martinez, a former neo-Nazi skinhead who now works to inoculate individuals against violence-based lifestyles and ideologies. The cost is $120 for the full conference or $75 for one day; discounts available for students. Register here.

  • The Art of Itinerancy: Yiddish Theater and the Performance of Migration by Debra Caplan, Baruch College, City University of New York, 3-4:30 p.m., Nov. 15, 602 Cathedral of Learning

Helping services available

Services are available for members of the Pitt and surrounding communities coping with the aftermath of the Tree of Life shootings.

Students: Community Care Behavioral Health: 1-888-251-2224.

Faculty/Staff: Life Solutions: 1-866-647-3432. Free confidential support is available 24/7 for faculty/staff with any trauma-related issues. Trained clinicians are available.

Resolve Crisis Services: Resolve Crisis Services is a 24-hour, 365-day crisis service that can be used by all residents of Allegheny County. Resolve 24-hour crisis help line:1-888-796-8226.

Counselors Available for the Community on a drop-in basis at the Jewish Community Center and by appointment at Jewish Family and Community Services412-422-7200.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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