The Journal Gazette
 
 
Sunday, October 17, 2021 1:00 am

Jewish resilience explored

Author of book on Tree of Life massacre to speak locally

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Almost three years to the day after the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States, an author will visit Fort Wayne to talk about the tragedy and the resilience of the Jewish people.

Mark Oppenheimer, author of “Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood,” will speak at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25. The program will be offered in person and online through Zoom. In-person attendees must wear a face mask while in the building.

Oppenheimer's book will be available for sale and signing at the program.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the Social Action Committee of Congregation Achduth Vesholom, Fort Wayne's Jewish Temple, and Purdue Fort Wayne's Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

A gunman opened fire Oct. 27, 2018, on a Saturday morning at Tree of Life – Or L'Simcha Congregation, a Conservative Jewish synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Eleven people died and six more were wounded.

Robert Gregory Bowers was arrested at the scene and has been charged with 63 federal crimes, including some capital crimes. He is awaiting trial.

Steve Carr, director of the Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, said Oppenheimer reached out to him, offering to speak here.

“When we initially spoke, he told me that communities like ours were so important in the aftermath of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting,” Carr said through email. “He now has an important message to share about what we do: small Jewish neighborhoods and communities are the engine of resilience within American Jewish culture that can help us face up to many challenges, and come back from heart-breaking tragedies.”

Fran Adler, who co-chairs the event, said acts of anti-Semitism in the U.S. have risen markedly in the last few years.

As a result, she said through email, “Jews (especially those of us in smaller communities) feel very vulnerable.”

“This horrific assault accentuated that feeling of vulnerability,” Adler added. “But the outpouring of outrage and support from our neighbors of many religions and ethnicities provided some comfort.”

“Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood” went on sale in bookstores and online Oct. 5.

The publisher describes the book as “a kaleidoscopic and nuanced account of collective grief, love, support, and revival.” 

“Many neighborhoods would be understandably subsumed by despair and recrimination after such an event, but not this one. Mark Oppenheimer poignantly shifts the focus away from the criminal and his crime, and instead presents the historic, spirited community at the center of this heartbreak,” marketing materials state.

The author spoke with residents and nonresidents, Jews and gentiles, survivors and witnesses, teenagers and seniors, activists and historians while researching the event and its aftermath.

Oppenheimer is a freelance journalist who writes for the New York Times magazine, Mother Jones, Slate and Tablet. He teaches English at Yale University, where he is director of the Yale Journalism Initiative. He lives with his family in New Haven, Connecticut.

sslater@jg.net

At a glance

What: An in-person and online lecture by Mark Oppenheimer, author of “Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood”

Who: Sponsored by the Social Action Committee of Congregation Achduth Vesholom, Fort Wayne's Jewish Temple

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25

Where: 5200 Old Mill Road

Cost: Free

To attend online: Follow the link on the temple's website, templecav.org, or go to YouTube “Achduth Vesholom Congregation”

To attend in person: Contact the temple office by 5 p.m. Friday, email office@templecav.org or call 260-744-4245

Contact for weekend and on Monday: Rena Black, 260-466-6789 or rena.black.fw@gmail.com


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