PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — An archivist at the Heinz History Center has made it his mission to preserve the memory of the Tree of Life massacre for future generations.
The shooting last October at the synagogue shocked and horrified us all.
But for Eric Lidji, the day was also a call to action.
As an archivist of local Jewish history at the Heinz History Center, Lidji knew that a record of the deadliest attack on Jewish people on U.S. soil and it’s aftermath needed to be gathered, assembled and preserved.
“At some point that afternoon, I laid out a task that’s been more or less what I’ve been doing ever since, which was to go to every event that I can and collect whatever I can from those events,” Lidji said.
Since then, he’s collected thousands of items, artifacts and pieces of paper related to the attack.
He has methodically cataloged them all to make an archive that is searchable for historians and accessible to the public, capturing events like the vigil that evening in the heart of Squirrel Hill with pieces like a “Love Thy Neighborhood” sign and candle held by a woman there.
“This is her candle. And you can see, there is a little bit of wax that dribbled on to the sign,” Lidji said.
He also preserved items from the vigil of Pitt students who gathered under the Cathedral of Learning and the makeshift shrine outside the synagogue.
“So that 150 years from now, when we’re all gone, somebody can take the thing off the shelf and — with a little bit of context — unlock that feeling that you have when you pass the building. That’s sort of the goal,” Lidji said.
Currently on display at the center is the history of the synagogue’s three congregations prior to the attack.
But in some time in the future, there will be a public exhibit from Lidji’s archive, but only when the time is right.
For now, the archive is still growing while time still allows.
“The responsibility falls to the present. There’s nobody else who can do it but us. The people of the past are gone, and the people of the future don’t have access to it. So it falls on us,” Lidji said.