A few days from now marks the one-year anniversary of the horrible mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven people were killed, and six were injured, when Robert Bowers opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle while shouting "All Jews must die!"
The synagogue has remained closed since the shooting, but plans were announced last week to reopen the building.
The building houses three congregations: the Tree of Life or L'Simcha, New Light, and Dor Hadash. Leaders of the congregations plan to make the building more than just a synagogue.
They plan to create classrooms, exhibits, a memorial, event spaces. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told reporters that they are hoping to create "an incredible center for Jewish life in the United States."
Sam Schachner is the president of the synagogue and he said, "When something bad happens, we have three choices. We can either let it define us, let it destroy us, or we can let it strengthen us. We will not let this attack destroy us. And we will not let this attack define us as a congregation."
Schachner also said, "It is about being the synagogue that survived, thrived and remembered who we are. We will turn tragedy into triumph, loss into life and love. We will be resilient, and we will be strong."
While leaders at the synagogue have called for armed security at Jewish synagogues, they did not say whether or not they planned for heavy security when Tree of Life reopens.
While I am a vocal critic of religion, I was truly horrified by the attack on Tree of Life last year. My sentiments in my original post remain true: we need to focus on addressing the toxic political and social climate that created Bowers's desire to open fire on Jewish people at their place of worship. I hope that when Tree of Life reopens they are able to create a safe and welcoming environment that also pays respect to those who lost their lives a year ago. Their memory should inspire us to do better a far better job understanding one another.