Impact Stories:

Protecting Jewish Pittsburgh From Re-Traumatization 

As the trial of the perpetrator continues, mental health is more important than ever.

The trial of the perpetrator of the attack on Congregation Dor Hadash, New Light Congregation and Tree of Life Congregation began jury selection on April 24, 2023. Even when nothing goes wrong during these kinds of trials, the publicity and testimony can re-traumatize people distressed by the original attack. A lot of work happens in the background to ensure that these people have the support they need and to keep everyone safe. 

We needed to increase security against the unfortunately commonplace possibility of violent, antisemitic supporters of the defendant descending on Pittsburgh. We needed to make sure the many people who could be re-traumatized by hearing details of the trial have mental health resources available and know how to access them. We needed to take care of the people most directly affected by the attack, including witnesses who have to testify at the trial. In short, we needed to work towards Jewish Federation’s vision: a Jewish community where everyone feels included, supported and inspired. 

Your support for the Federation made much of that preparation possible, in close collaboration with our core partners and the 10.27 Healing Partnership. 

Jewish Federation’s community security team ramped up many efforts in advance of the trial. Part of these efforts simply involved ensuring our Jewish locations had working security plans and systems, reinforcing training and testing communications that might be needed. The Federation coordinated with law enforcement, brought experts from Jewish Federations of North America’s Secure Community Network into a Pittsburgh-based operations center, advocated with the government for security improvements and reviewed target hardening for key locations. 

The security team also applied for government grants to help—part of the Federation’s constant effort to multiply the impact of private giving. An application to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency resulted in $150,000 in funding for extra security guards for Jewish agencies and synagogues during the trial. Funding from the Community Resiliency Fund added home security for people directly impacted by the shooting, supplementing protection from the U.S. Marshal’s Service. 

On the health and wellness front, the Federation worked closely with the 10.27 Healing Partnership to publicize mental health and wellness resources. The Federation also helped Jewish agencies and synagogues prepare for possible media coverage and encouraged trauma-informed language that would be less likely to create anxiety. Working together, the Federation and 10.27 Healing Partnership reached out to the media and to elected officials to encourage sensitive coverage and language during the trial. Additionally, we worked with our core partners and the three affected synagogues to publicize community resiliency stories to counter the potentially traumatizing trial-related stories about the shooting. 

Federation resources also helped other organizations prepare. The Federation applied for a grant from the community resiliency funds donated in the wake of the attack, which brought a variety of healing resources to the Jewish community. People need to feel safe to feel mentally healthy, so the Federation’s security team made special security arrangements for key events leading up to the trial, such as the “L’hitraot” (see you later) for Tree of Life building and the installation of Dor Hadash’s new rabbi. 

Sometimes, the absence of a crisis suggests the planning that helped to avoid one. As our Jewish community remembers and mourns the eleven people from the three congregations who were killed, support for the Federation will hopefully minimize the pain during the trial and promote long-term resiliency for our beloved Jewish community and all of greater Pittsburgh. 

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