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SQUIRREL HILL (KDKA) — The memorials for the Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting victims left outside the Tree of Life Synagogue will be deconstructed next week so they can be moved indoors.

Congregants from Dor Hadash, New Light and Tree of Life will temporarily deconstruct the memorials located along Wilkins Avenue on Wednesday. The deconstruction is taking place due to concerns about inclement weather, vandalism and traffic.

They plan to preserve many of the items left by friends, family, neighbors and strangers, and they are working with experts in the field of memorialization and archival preservation on the project.

“Part of what we’re going to be providing this week is just a little bit of organization and guidance on how to handle these items and how to protect them once they come inside, and we’ll do some basic documentation as well, just so that we have what we call intellectual control, meaning an understanding in our minds of what all is there and what it means and how it fits together,” Eric Lidji of the Heinz History Center said.

PITTSBURGH, PA – OCTOBER 31: Mourners visit the memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 31, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven people were killed in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Some flowers left behind will be dried and/or pressed while the rest will be composted. Other items — like candles, stones, pictures, wooden Stars of David, etc. — will be relocated to a more secure and climate-controlled location.

Those items will be used to construct a similar memorial. The synagogue currently plans to temporarily place the memorial inside the glass doors in the Tree of Life’s main sanctuary lobby. The public will be able to walk up to the exterior of the entrance and view the memorial through the glass doors, although the public is not permitted inside the building.

“The idea is that people should still be able to at least visually interact with it for a little while and then at the moment that the families and the congregations feels appropriate, the next step of figuring out the long-term preservation of these objects,” Lidji said.


The plan is to have the rebuilt memorial available to public viewing in the near future.

The materials collected will ultimately be cataloged and preserved in the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center, where they will be available to researchers, historians and members of the public.