Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor
As the crowd made its way to Schenley Park on Friday, a row of handcrafted flowers made by students of the Community Day School in Squirrel Hill provided a glimpse of brightness on the solemn afternoon.
Each flower bore the name of a victim of the Tree of Life Shooting.
At the root of the flowers were rocks, painted with bright colors bearing messages of hope such as “You are not alone,” “Love” and “Sweet.”
The memorials were not just a reminder, but a symbol for what the day would bring.
Despite the abundance of armed guards surrounding the park and the tragic circumstances that led to
Friday’s commemorations —The City of Pittsburgh showed its resilient.
“Anthony Fienberg described his mother Joyce as the living embodiment of love and kindness,” said U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Eric Olshan. “Joyce Fienberg engaged in love and kindness everyday. She did it without being asked, not because she was supposed or it was somehow required. It was just who she was.”
Five years ago, the 75-year-old women became 1 of 11 people killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.
A lone gunman walked into the Tree of Life synagogue building and killed Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Rose Mallinger, 97; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; brothers David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59; Bernice Simon, 84, and her husband, Sylvan Simon, 86; Dan Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 87; and Irving Younger, 69
On Friday, at Schenley Park, the 10.27 Healing Partnership hosted a ceremony to honor the 11 victims.
The nearly two-hour event included a candle-lighting by the victims’ families, observations of first responders, prayers by Jewish community leaders, musical performances and comments from Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, and Pittsburgh Councilperson Erika Strassburger.
The healing process for Pittsburgh has not been simple since the worst antisemitic attack in U.S. history. The city, along with the nation have seen an increase in violence and hate crimes.
It would take 1,689 days to convict the shooter on 63 counts including hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of the free exercise of religion resulting in death in August a jury sentenced him to die.
“I urge everyone to remember that five years ago, when our city faced a crisis, we had each other to lean on and build a healing path,” said Maggie Feinstein, executive director of the 10.27 Healing Partnership. “And today we hold this memory as there are more crises around us.”
Since the synagogue attack, the number of active shooter incidents have increased nationally. The FBI defines an active shooter incident as one in which one or more individuals actively engages in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. In 2022, there was a nearly 67% rise in active shooter incidents – 50 of them – compared to 2018, when there were 30.
Of the 50 active shooters, 61 firearms were used, 29 handguns, 26 rifles, three shotguns and three described unknown.
The number of mass shootings, defined by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive as an attack in which “a minimum of four victims shot, either injured or killed, not including any shooter” has also seen a nationwide increase.
The archive reported that mass shootings have steadily increased year over year since 2018 with a slight dip in 2022. In five years, mass shootings have increased at an almost 85% rate going from 336 mass shootings in 2018 to 647 in 2022.
As of Wednesday, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been a total of 585 mass shootings, averaging nearly two mass shootings a day in 2023.
Locally, the impact of the Tree of Life shooting has had limited effects on policy.
Just two days after the one-year anniversary of the events at Tree of Life, an Allegheny County judge struck down three ordinances passed by Pittsburgh City Council in the wake of the attack. They included an assault weapons ban, a ban on large-capacity magazines and measures that empowered courts to stop people from possessing firearms if they posed an imminent threat to themselves or others.
“Stated simply, under the doctrine of field preemption, the [Uniform Firearms Act] preempts any local regulation pertaining to the regulation of firearms,” Judge Joseph James wrote “The Uniform Firearms Act is a comprehensive statute that evidences an intent by the legislature to preempt the entire field of firearms and ammunition across the state of Pennsylvania.”
There have been attempts to aid and protect nonprofit organizations including places of worship. In November 2019, the General Assembly established funding to boost security at nonprofit organizations that serve marginalized communities. SpotlightPA reported last week that the General Assembly has allocated $20 million to the program since its inception, but in the same period the commission has received about $75 million in requests from hundreds of organizations.
Antisemitism along with hate crimes have also seen a rise. (locally or nationally?)quote professor
The Anti-Defamation League found that in 2018 there were 39 assaults, defined as “cases where Jewish people (or people perceived to be Jewish) were targeted with physical violence accompanied by evidence of antisemitic animus.” The number of assaults saw a continuous increase year over year, except in 2020.
Last year, the number of assaults rose to 111, a nearly 185% increase.
Duquesne associate law professor and faculty advisor to the Jewish Law Student Association Rona Kaufman l said that her mindset about violence toward the Jewish community is a “matter of when, not if” still holds hope for the Jewish Community.
“I have hope for us,” Kaufman said. “I think that we’re a strong people and a strong nation in terms of longevity. s a Jew necessarily,” Kaufman said. “But I definitely don’t feel less safe in Squirrel Hill.” Kaufman who “The fact that Oct. 27 happened that didn’t change anything about how I feel as a Jew living in America.”