The synagogue at the corner of Wilkins and Shady avenues in Squirrel Hill was dedicated in 1952 by Tree of Life Congregation and expanded several times over the subsequence decades to include new sanctuaries, classrooms, and wings, as well as to become home to other organizations throughout the community. By late 2018, the synagogue building was used by three congregations: Tree of Life*Or L'Simcha Congregation, New Light Congregation, and Congregation Dor Hadash.
In the months following the October 27 attack, many public accounts have used the shorthand “three congregations” to explain the shared living arrangements within a single large Squirrel Hill synagogue. Grouping these three congregations together based solely by their mutual tragedy ignores their individual characteristics. Each was created to fill specific religious and spiritual needs. Each developed along a particular path, reflecting different eras, ethnicities, practices, and ideas within American Judaism. Through their histories, each of these congregations illuminates a different corner of the larger Jewish history of our region.
Tree of Life Congregation
Tree of Life was founded in June 1864, following six tumultuous months within the small Jewish community of Pittsburgh.
New Light Congregation
New Light Congregation emerged from a wave of Romanian Jewish immigration to Pittsburgh in the 1890s, the result of increased antisemitism in Romania. A group of these immigrants chartered Congregation Ohel Jacob (“Tent of Jacob”) in the Hill District in December 1899.