Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue Being Demolished

(NewsSpace.com) – In October 2018, Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, armed with multiple weapons. In what would later be described as one of the worst antisemitic attacks on the Jewish community in the US, 11 people died and seven others, including five responding police officers, were injured. Bowers was eventually convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. Now, more than five years later, officials are destroying much of the building.

Demolition Plans

On Wednesday, January 17, demolition crews arrived at the Tree of Life Synagogue and began tearing down the structure that was the site of one of the deadliest attacks against the community. The plan isn’t to take down the entire building, but approximately 80% of it. There are currently three congregants, only one of which will remain, along with the main sanctuary where they hold worship services. The rest will come down to make way for a memorial honoring those who died as well as a museum centered on the roots of antisemitism, the first of its kind.

Tree of Life Congregation president Alan Hausman spoke with Pittsburgh’s Action News 4, and said, “It’s a very emotional day. There’s a lot of memories into (sic) this building.” One of the survivors, Audrey Glickman, said people “want to come back” and that the demolition is the start of a new beginning. Many others shared the same sentiment.

For a while, there was a bit of a debate as to what to do with the synagogue. Some wanted to tear it down completely, while others wanted it restored. In the end, it was a compromise between the two. The demolition is expected to take a few months. After that, construction on the new structure is expected to start this summer and take approximately two years to finish.

Bowers’ Fate

After carrying out the mass shooting, Bowers eventually surrendered to the police. He was convicted in June 2023 of all 63 charges against him, which included 11 counts of hate crimes that resulted in death. He had offered prosecutors a deal where he would plead guilty if the death penalty was taken off the table. They denied it.

In July, the judge in the case formally sentenced Bowers to death after a jury unanimously agreed to impose the sentence following a series of emotional victim impact statements. In September, Bowers was transferred to the US penitentiary located in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he will remain until his death sentence is carried out.

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