The Tree of Life

In the aftermath of a mass shooting, how do people heal? Looking out at twenty years of Columbine and Newtown, Parkland and Pittsburgh, what can we say about why some communities fall apart in their grief, with recriminations, financial infighting, and even suicides, while other communities transmit that suffering into care and positive action?

The neighborhood of Squirrel Hill is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the country, and one of the few that hasn’t bled the majority of its members to the suburbs. Its park-bound topography, easy walkability, vibrant shopping district, municipal amenities—including a post office, library, and public high school—and, above all, its integration of multiple houses of worship—Jewish and non-Jewish—into the residential streetscape make it an ideal case study of how topography and history can affect healing.

Rethinking Conversion

Unfortunately, we’ve lost sight of how best to welcome newcomers to Judaism.