Architect behind World Trade Center memorial to redesign Tree of Life synagogue

"It is a project that must address the persistence of antisemitism and the intolerance of our time and affirm the democratic values of our country."

  • Lucy Perkins/WESA

(Pittsburgh) — The architect who designed the master plan at the World Trade Center following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will lead efforts to rebuild the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, more than two years after a gunman killed 11 Jewish worshipers there.

“Our team is committed to creating a powerful and memorable space that addresses the worst anti-Semitic attack in United States history,” said architect Daniel Libeskind, who also designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

“When my parents, survivors of the Holocaust, and I came as immigrants to America, we felt an air of freedom as Jews in this country,” he said in a press release Tuesday. “That is why this project is not simply about ‘Never Again.’ It is a project that must address the persistence of antisemitism and the intolerance of our time and affirm the democratic values of our country.”

Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said the new space, which will be on the Tree of Life site, is the beginning of the synagogue’s efforts to create a “Makom Kodesh,” a safe space for the community.

“Our new and reimagined space will not only serve the needs of our congregation but will offer an open space to our neighbors and the broader community — here in Pittsburgh, across the country and around the world,” Myers said in a press release. “The space will be welcoming and accessible for people of all abilities and backgrounds, offering safe and secure places to learn, cultivate partnerships, remember and reflect.”

The new design will include classrooms, places of worship and reflection spaces to commemorate the October 27, 2018 attack. The redesigned building will also house exhibitions and programming by the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh.

Survivors and relatives of those who were killed in the anti-Semitic shooting praised the announcement in a press release on Tuesday.

“This is an exciting next step in this long process of rebuilding. I am looking forward to entering a new Tree of Life building without fear or hesitation,” said Andrea Wedner, who was injured in the attack. Her mother, Rose Mallinger, was killed in the attack.

“We are hopeful that this new chapter for the building will be an opportunity to remember those who were taken and welcome more people in,” said Michele Rosenthal, whose brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal were killed in the shooting.

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