OCTOBER 27, 2018
On October 27, 2018, a gunman entered a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where three Jewish congregations—Tree of Life Congregation, New Light Congregation, and Congregation Dor Hadash—were just beginning Shabbat morning services. The gunman murdered eleven people and wounded six others before being apprehended by police. The attack is widely considered to be the deadliest antisemitic incident in American history.
The attack was a fixed event, with a beginning and an end. Its aftermath will continue forever. It has already unfolded in many varied, personal, and unexpected ways. There have been silent meditations occurring entirely in the minds of individuals. There have been private correspondence between confidants. There have been intimate moments within the safety of community gatherings. There have been public conversations about the future of America and its Jewish community. As with all of life, most of these moments passed without any documentation.
But some left a trace.
Within a day of the attack, the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh began collecting these traces in real time, as they were being created at vigils, memorials, and meetings throughout Western Pennsylvania and all over the world. The Rauh Jewish Archives has since collected thousands of flyers, programs, bulletins, speeches, reports, signs, posters, news reports, emails, text messages, recordings, photographs, artifacts, oral histories, and web pages.
Each of these objects attests to an individual experience occurring somewhere around the world—a person who was moved by the events of that day and was compelled to act. Each of these objects is a small, remarkable testimony of the essential human need to reach out and connect. Viewed together, as a collection, these thousands of objects reveal the terrible scale of pain created on that day, as well as the vast communal effort to heal and to move forward.
THE OCTOBER 27 ARCHIVE
The October 27 Archive is the public face of that vast collection. It is a place to showcase individual objects, as they are processed, cataloged, and deemed appropriate for public viewing. It is a place for the world to connect with these objects and to study them.
Within hours of the attack, people all over the world began holding vigils to acknowledge the event, to memorialize the victims, and to address communal concerns. The October 27 Archive includes documentation of dozens of vigils, mostly from Western Pennsylvania. This documentation primarily consists of flyers and programs collected from events in real time. In some cases, documentation also includes remarks delivered at events, as well as photographs, recordings, and news coverage of events.
As these events were occurring through the Pittsburgh region, people all over the world began creating tribute objects. These objects took many forms, but they were all created with similar intentions: to grieve, to express solidarity, to provide comfort, and to honor the victims. Thousands of these objects were left at a large outdoor memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue, as well as smaller memorials throughout the Pittsburgh area. Thousands more were sent directly to people and organizations in the local community. The Rauh Jewish Archives is currently digitizing and cataloging these tribute objects and is working closely with numerous community stakeholders to make them available on this website in the future.
As with any highly publicized historical event, news media have created an important and lasting record of the October 27 attack and its aftermath. Unlike historical events in earlier eras, much of the reporting about October 27 originally appeared online. Since early November 2018, the Rauh Jewish Archives has been using Archive-It to preserve web content relevant to the October 27 attack and its aftermath, including a comprehensive record of local media reports of the attack. Archive-It provides online tools for capturing and preserving websites, web pages, social media posts, and other dynamic web content. Archive-It also provides services for hosting and sharing these "web captures" through its website The Internet Archive. Archive-It “web captures” function like the live Internet, but they are in fact distinct snapshots. They document not only the content of web material but also interactive features. Being distinct, these captures are preserved even after the original site is changed or deleted. To view the entire October 27 collection, please visit our collection page at Archive-It.
The October 27 Archive is the home of the Meanings of October 27th oral history project. The project contains more than 100 interviews with a diverse group of Jewish and non-Jewish narrators from the Pittsburgh area, each with relevant and varied connections to the October 27 attack and to the local Jewish community. Interviews include life histories, as well as specific reflections on the attack. The team behind Meanings of October 27th commissioned transcriptions of these recordings and identified the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS) as its preferred platform for making the recordings and transcripts available to the public. You can learn more about the Meanings of October 27th at its project page.
In documenting the aftermath of the October 27 attack, the Rauh Jewish Archives is wary of defining a community by a crime committed against it. Each of the victims led rich lives prior to the attack. Each of the three congregations had a long and distinct history prior to the attack and also hold the promise of years to come. The local Jewish community is specific, distinct, and multifaceted, and it is intimately tied to the history and fate of the city of Pittsburgh and the surrounding region. Stories of life before October 27 are also part of the story of October 27, and so, in addition to documentation created since the attack, the October 27 Archive includes a small selection of historic materials intended to provide broader context and perspective about the local community. For a much larger selection of historic materials about the local Jewish community, please visit our website The Jewish Encyclopedia of Western Pennsylvania.
HOW TO USE THE ARCHIVE
The October 27 Archive offers many ways to discover materials.
You can start by browsing the entire archive. Each object is described according to archival best practices. These descriptions are designed to help you discover relevant materials and to understand these materials and to learn the context in which these materials were created.
Using the filters at the top of the page, you can narrow your browsing experience. These filters have been used to create several preset galleries, each organized around specific aspects of the Archive. For example, one gallery allows you to see all the breaking news coverage of the attack.
A map feature on the bottom of the homepage allows you to see the geographic extent of the archive.
You can also find specific terms in the archive using the search function at the top of each page.
The October 27 Archive includes a feature that arranges the archive communally. Conversations about the October 27 attack have often used the metaphor of “concentric circles” to describe the different experiences of groups of people, based on their proximity to the attack. According to this model, each circle represents a specific grouping of people impacted by the October 27 attack: families of the victims, survivors, first responders, members of the attacked congregations, residents of Squirrel Hill, the many Jewish communities throughout Western Pennsylvania, the ciy of Pittsburgh, and so on, continuing outward to include anyone who felt pain and loss from that day. Each successive circle moves farther from the event but expands to include more people. The “concentric circles” model is not intended to prioritize the grief felt by one group of people over that of any other. It is rather a way of acknowledging the widespread trauma caused by the October 27 attack while also respecting the experiences of different groups of people within this complex and evolving story of recovery.
To reflect this idea, the Community page begins a memorial to the 11 people who were killed in the attack, then proceeds to provides historical information about the three congregations that lost members of October 27, and then expands to include the Jewish community and the world.
USE AND REPRODUCTION
The October 27 Archive is a collection of digital reproductions.
Some of these reproductions are scans or photographs of physical objects. In many cases, the original physical objects are currently held at the Rauh Jewish Archives. In other cases, the objects are held by third parties, who have granted the Rauh Jewish Archives permission to create and share a digital reproduction on this website. All other objects in the Archive were created digitally and are presented here in their original form. Some objects have been redacted to remove personal information.
The digital reproductions on this website are being made available here for research purposes only. For permission to use, share or reproduce any of the materials on this website for any other purpose, such as publication or exhibition, please contact the Rauh Jewish Archives.
When referencing any material found on this website, please attribute all citations to the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center. Please include the title and collection of the object being referenced. This allows other researchers to more easily locate these materials in the future.
If you created any of the materials found on this website, and you would like to provide additional information, please contact the Rauh Jewish Archives.
The October 27 Archive was created by the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. Contributions came from current and former staff including Rachel Askey, Catelyn Cocuzzi, Liz Dewar, Sierra Green, Mary Jones, Eric Lidji, Carly Lough, Claire Moclock, Mary Nestor, Sarah Reck, Matt Strauss, and Robert Vita. Contributions also came from many volunteers, interns, and community consultants including Rachel Colker, Emily Dahlin, David Heastins, Amy Leaman, Hannah Lynn, Sally Miller, Franky Moore, Hilary Spatz, and Victoria Swindle. Advice and support along the way was generously provided by many community members, including Jay Aronson, Brian Cohen, Laurie Eisenberg, Katie Moose, Shelly Parver, Howard Rieger, and Scott Weingart, as well as the teams at DeepLocal, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.
The Rauh Jewish Archives is grateful to the community of archivists and curators all over the country who have provided support and guidance, including those from Northeastern University's Our Marathon project, Pam Schwartz and the team at the One Orlando Collection, the staff of the 9/11 Museum and Memorial and the Flight 93 Memorial, the staff at the Arizona Historical Society, and others.
The October 27 Archive was supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency using funds from the U.S. Department of Justice with additional financial support from the Philip Chosky Foundation, the Donald & Sylvia Robinson Family Foundation, and private donors. This website was engineered and designed by Agile Humanities Agency of Toronto, ON.
The October 27 Archive is an ongoing initiative. If you would like to financially support this project, please visit the Heinz History Center.
ABOUT THE RAUH JEWISH ARCHIVES
The Rauh Jewish Archives was established on Nov. 1, 1988 as a central repository for archival materials documenting the Jewish experience in Western Pennsylvania. By the time of the October 27 attack, the Rauh Jewish Archives had become a well-known and trusted institution within the Jewish community of Pittsburgh.