‘It’s time for us to look forward’: Tree of Life Synagogue building demolition begins

PITTSBURGH — Wednesday was a bittersweet day as the demolition of the Tree of Life building began to make way for a new reimagined structure.

“It’s a beautiful design which the focal point is a path of light that cuts through the building, it’s wonderful symbolism of in the worst tragedy cut through that darkness with physical light,” Tree of Life CEO Carol Zawatsky said.

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There will also be a sanctuary for the congregation, an education and research center and the nation’s first museum that focuses on antisemitism in the United States.

The demolition represents a step forward in the healing process.

“The catalyst, for this was something terrible, but in life, you have to close one chapter to open a new one, and it’s time for us to look forward and heal and try and bring some good to our community and our world from the tragedy that happened here,” co-chair of the construction working group for Tree of Life, Andrew Stewart, said.

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In total, 80% of the building will be torn down, while the sanctuary walls at the corner of Shady and Wilkins avenues will be preserved.

The building has been vacant since Oct. 27, 2018, when a gunman killed 11 worshipers in a hate-motivated attack.

There will be a special area to remember the congregants who lost their lives.

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“There’s a garden of memory, a Memorial 10/27 Memorial to each of the victims and inside the building there is a space of memory, which is the same footprint as the chapel where so many of the congregants were lost,” Zawatsky said.

Construction is expected to be completed in two years.

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