L-R: Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Mayoral Advisor Steve Erwin at the Tree of Life Synagogue memorial on Mount Arazim..
(photo credit: DENNIS ZINN/KKL-JNF)
No one was surprised when Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto stepped off the plane after his 11-hour flight and requested to go immediately to the memorial site near Jerusalem established for the 11 congregants murdered in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue.
Mayor Peduto had arrived in Israel to attend the 33rd International Mayors Conference, but the visit to the memorial was at the top of his agenda.
Onsite to greet the Pittsburgh Mayor, upon his arrival to the Mount Arazim memorial site, was Head of the Masorti-Conservative
Movement in Israel Dr. Yizhar Hess, who was representing the KKL-JNF World Executive, KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol Andy Michelson, and Director of KKL-JNF’s USA Desk Liat Itzhak-Herzog. Mayor Peduto told them that he how pleased and relieved he was to have finally come here. “This is my first visit to Israel. I have wanted to come for a long time, and that need grew even more acute after the horrific shooting in the Tree of Life Synagogue in October last year.”
On Saturday, October 27, 2018, during the Shabbat morning service, a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and opened fire.
Eleven people were killed and six others, including four police officers, were injured. Shortly after the tragedy, KKL-JNF and JNF-USA erected a stone plaque with the names of the deceased at the 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza in the Arazim Valley outside Jerusalem.
Mayor Peduto gazed at the plaque and read the names, and was overwhelmed with emotion. “I have a long history with the Tree of Life congregation,” he said. “I live just a few blocks away and I knew some of the victims personally. I was shocked that Saturday morning when I was alerted to the tragedy in progress. It was difficult to believe that it was happening in our city. However, unlike 80 years ago when Jews were murdered, the people of Pittsburgh rallied to help those under attack.
"The police and politicians did not look the other way or try to hide; they stood up and said ‘never again,’ they said ‘an attack against one is an attack against us all,’” the mayor added.
Read more about the Tree of Life memorial with the Pittsburgh mayor in Israel.