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April 28, 2022 1:23 pm

Documentary on Pittsburgh Community After Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting to Premiere at Jewish Film Festival

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Photo: Reuters/John Altdorfer.

A documentary about how locals in Pittsburgh came together to support the Jewish community after the 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill will make its world premiere next week at Pittsburgh’s JFilm Festival.

The documentary, “Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Life,” follows the city’s response and individual efforts to heal over the course of three years following the October 2018 shooting, in which 11 worshippers were killed by a far-right racist gunman in what was the worst single antisemitic attack against Jews in US history. The film’s title is a nod to the Hebrew phrase “tikkun olam,” or “repair of the world.” The screening on May 5 will be followed by a Q&A with director Patrice O’Neill and participants in the film.

“Through the voices of survivors, family members, diverse Pittsburgh residents, and area leaders, the film shows how the community responded not with fear but with courage and faced down hate with an unprecedented show of love and unity,” the film festival said in its synopsis of the documentary. “This powerful and moving documentary ultimately demonstrates that in a moment of crisis Pittsburgh proved to be a vibrant city that knows what it means to be ‘Stronger than Hate.’”

O’Neill told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he hopes the documentary will encourage audiences to take a stand against antisemitism. “I do not think standing up to antisemitism is a Jewish issue. It’s something that has to happen with everyone in this country,” he said. “It’s like saying fighting racism is just for Black people. That’s unconscionable and not true. The same is true of antisemitism.”

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The documentary also features Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, former Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, police chief Scott Schubert, members of the city’s Christian and Muslim communities, and local high school students, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, among others.

JFilm runs from April 28-May 8.

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