History Center launches new digital archive documenting October 27 Synagogue attack

Hands At Prayer
Photo credit: Brian Cohen

-The Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives has collected thousands of documents, artifacts, and news articles documenting the attack and its impact on the Jewish community locally, nationally, and globally-

The Senator John Heinz History Center’s Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives has launched a groundbreaking website to share archival materials collected following the antisemitic attack against three congregations at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018.

The October 27 Archive website (october27archive.org) documents the incredible outpouring of support for the Jewish community of Pittsburgh from people around Western Pa. and the world.

Since the attack, the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives has collected tens of thousands of documents, artifacts, and news articles documenting local efforts to heal, to create cross-communal bonds, and to address global antisemitism. The website currently includes 150 of these objects and will grow over the next several months to include a vast selection of materials from the existing archive.

“Each object included in the October 27 Archive represents a single response to the October 27 attack. By bringing all these objects together in one place, we honor the many incredible responses to that terrible day. As this website grows in the years to come, we hope it will help people heal, connect, inspire, educate, and work together to improve the world,” said Eric Lidji, director of the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives.

The website currently includes flyers and programs from vigils held in the days following the attack, a comprehensive archive of local news coverage from Oct. 27, 2018, and a curated selection of historic photographs and documents from Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. It is also the home of the “Meanings of October 27th” oral history project, which includes recordings with more than 100 people from different walks of life – both Jewish and non-Jewish from across the region – discussing their lives and offering their reflections on the attack. The first 20 oral histories from the project are currently available on the website, with more to come.

The October 27 Archive website was created in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh using funds awarded through the federal Antiterrorism Emergency Assistance Program. The website is believed to be the first archival project funded through AEAP, which is typical reserved for social services impacted by domestic terrorism events.

“Through understanding the resilience of our community and the stories of the many people who helped respond to the worst antisemitic attack in U.S. history, we hope to help people in Pittsburgh and around the world to heal. That’s why we are proud to have funded the work of the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives to create the online October 27 Archive,” said Jeff Finkelstein, CEO of the Jewish Federation.

Founded in 1988, the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives – part of the Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center – collects, preserves, and makes accessible the documentary history of Jews and Jewish communities of Western Pennsylvania.

The Senator John Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and the largest history museum in Pennsylvania, presents American history with a Western Pennsylvania connection. The History Center and Sports Museum are located at 1212 Smallman Street in the city’s Strip District. The History Center’s family of museums includes the Sports Museum; the Fort Pitt Museum in historic Point State Park; and Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, a National Historic Landmark located in Avella, Pa., in Washington County. More information is available at heinzhistorycenter.org.