SQUIRREL HILL (KDKA) — There is no guidebook, blueprint or a prescribed way for a community to move forward after an act of mass murder.

Ten months after the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, the empty, shrouded building serves as a constant reminder of that sorrow.

But as they approach the first anniversary of the tragedy, Tree of Life — and the two other congregations who worshipped there — know that they must move forward.

And that means making decisions.

First, what to do with the donations that poured in from around the country and the world?

Tree of Life Executive Director Barb Feige said she doesn’t know the full amount, but it’s safe to say it’s several million dollars.


And while some checks arrived stating that the money should go to the victims and their families, others were not specific.

“The very caring family from Texas who wanted to do something out of love and healing wrote a check out to Tree of Life,” Feige said. “They may or may not have had something in mind.”

Distribution and dissemination of that money must be made by the three congregations and since a consensus is difficult, Feige said an outside facilitator will oversee that process.

“We’re family and we’re connected by blood, marriage and the choices of somebody else that we had nothing to do with,” Feige said. “We’re forever connected here. So we need to work these things out.”

The other — more difficult decision — is what to do with the building itself.

Where some believe restoring it would honor the victims, others said they could never set foot in Tree of Life again.

“Different things to different people,” Feige said. “Some people would like to see it left as it is and memorialize it as it is. Other people say tear it down get rid of it. It’s too painful.”

A steering committee from the Tree of Life Board is heading up those discussions with the congregations and other stakeholders from the community.

What’s clear at this point is that there will be a memorial to the victims built on the site, and the main sanctuary where no bullet flew will be preserved.

“The rest of the building, it’s possible we may take it down and start over,” Feige said. “It’s possible we may take it to the studs and work on the interior. It’s all up for discussion.”