Hearts Together Tree of Life Exhibit and Community

By Joshua Parquet

September 2021

The Hearts Together Tree of Life Exhibit memorializes the nine Jewish worshippers that lost their lives in the Pittsburgh shooting at the hands of an antisemitic white supremacist on October 27th, 2018 in Squirrel Hill. Following the shooting, people considered the synagogue to be “uninhabitable” due to its vacancy, blue tarps, and being unkept. However, the “Heart’s Together” effort aims to replace this with beauty as a way to rebuild the area and reflect the love that the community shows. Located outside of the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha synagogue building, the exhibit displays drawings by students ages 13 to 17 sent from across the U.S. ranging from Pittsburgh to Parkland, Florida. These works demonstrate the support and love from the community during a heartbreaking time. This act of terror reminds us that antisemitic continues to be a major problem in society, but also demonstrates the importance of community and strength to move forward.

Students of all backgrounds from Pittsburgh sent most of the artwork demonstrating their overwhelming love and support for their community. Interestingly, students of Parkland, Florida and Columbine, Colorado also sent a number of different drawings to show their support. These included students of Columbine High School and Stoneman Douglass High School, both of which experienced extreme acts of gun violence. These contributions showcase the positive influence other communities can have on each other.

Common themes throughout the paintings include strength and community. For example, drawings by Morgan and Sarah, ages 13 and 16 from Pittsburgh indicate the power of strength and community when overcoming tragedy. Morgan’s drawing shows two hands holding the Star of David with the words “Stronger Together.” Sarah’s painting also displays two hands with the words, “rebuild together.” These messages indicate the growth that can occur when communities come together. 

6 glass doors with stars of david israeli flag and other art inside
“Memorial Door of the L’Simcha Congregation.” 

The artwork also displays the importance of diversity. Morgan and Sarah’s pictures show two hands of different skin colors, indicating the power of coming together no matter the background. In another example, a drawing by Sophia Y., age 17 from Pennsylvania, uses the word, “love,” written in different languages at the top of the page along with the words, “above all,” at the very bottom. She also drew a group of people of all different skin colors. Like other works in the exhibit, Sophia’s art indicates that hate and acts of violence do not affect solely one group, but everyone. Similarly, the shooting at the synagogue affects not just the Jewish community, but everyone across the country. Sophia’s picture indicates that love can overcome hate and allow for growth. 

Ultimately, the exhibit demonstrates the importance of growth and rebuilding following the devastating shooting that occurred. It reminds communities to not be complacent and to continue to fight against injustice and rise above the hate. The exhibit not only mourns the loss, but also begins a transition to rebuild alongside a strong community that shows so much support and love. It demonstrates the beauty of the community.

Featured Image

All photos by author. “Exhibit,” Hearts Together: A view of the exhibit from a distance.

Further Reading

“Hearts Together: The Art of Rebuilding.” Hearts Together Gallery – Tree of Life Congregation (Pittsburgh), www.treeoflifepgh.org/heartstogether

“Tree of Life Congregations Want Youth to Submit Art to Decorate Fence.” Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, 15 Apr. 2019, www.post-gazette.com/news/faith-religion/2019/04/15/Tree-of-Life-congregations-artworks-beautify-decorate-fence-HeartsTogether/stories/201904150067

How to Cite

MLA: Parquet, Joshua. “Hearts Together Tree of Life Exhibit.” Religyinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, 23 Sept. 2021, religyinz.pitt.edu/hearts-together-tree-of-life-exhibit-and-community

APA: Parquet, J. 2021, September 23. Hearts together tree of life exhibit. Religyinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh. https://religyinz.pitt.edu/hearts-together-tree-of-life-exhibit-and-community/

Chicago: Parquet, Joshua. “Hearts Together Tree of Life Exhibit.” Religyinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, September 23, 2021. https://religyinz.pitt.edu/hearts-together-tree-of-life-exhibit-and-community/