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StorY Collection Project

On October 27, 2018, a gunman attacked worshippers in the Tree of Life synagogue building, leaving eleven dead and two wounded. Five first responders were also injured. The three congregations meeting in the building – Tree of Life, New Light, and Dor Hadash – all lost beloved members.

Your thoughtful addition to the sidewalk memorial brought us much comfort.

Immediately after the attack, well-wishers created a massive makeshift memorial on the sidewalk outside the synagogue building. When volunteers lovingly deconstructed the memorial after two and a half weeks, they retrieved several hundred objects that had been left, most anonymously, among the mountains of flowers. In the months since, other offerings have appeared at the corner of Wilkins and Shady avenues, most without attribution.

We are now seeking the backstories for those items. Some have obvious messages and relevance to the event, whereas others are intriguing because their intent is less clear. In all cases, we are interested in knowing why donors chose the items they did, what messages they intended for victims’ families, survivors and visitors to the memorial, why they were motivated to contribute something more tangible than flowers, and how doing so made them feel.

Among the items about which little is known are a marathon medal, high-top sneakers, Wallenberg leaves, a guitar, camp chairs, sports items, signs, notes, stuffed animals, and a nurse’s cross that was hand delivered on the day that the memorial was dismantled. We would also like to identify the violinist and church choir who performed briefly on the sidewalk sometime during the two and a half weeks after the shooting.

We are grateful for the immediate, compassionate response for the three affected congregations from our neighbors and well-wishers beyond. Scholars will study the particulars of this terrible anti-Semitic assault for decades to come; this project aims to make sure the caring response of the community is also fully documented for their review and intends to ensure that the stories are accurately recorded and preserved.

If you left something at the memorial, played an instrument or sang nearby, please share your story. 

The stories will be preserved along with the original items retrieved from the memorial, as part of a collection that will eventually be available to researchers, historians and members of the public. With your permission, mention or recounting of your story may also appear in published writings about the memorial. All stories will be entered in the archival record. You can indicate if you would like to allow its mention online or in a publication and if you want to be identified by name. Someone will contact you for additional information a few days after you have made your submission.

Thank you for your original contribution to the sidewalk memorial, and for reaching out now to help us ensure that history records the full story.  

Questions? Email

Photos by Brian Cohen.




Sat, November 28 2020 12 Kislev 5781