Last year at this time, a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killing 11 people. It was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. Its impact reverberated throughout the city and across the country.
The rise in hate and anti-Semitism has presented our country and our world with an urgent call to action. As a Not In Our Town supporter, you know our history of producing and sharing films and stories that help communities stand up to hate together.
We need your support this year for a new film we are producing about the community of Pittsburgh and their courageous stand against hate and anti-Semitism. I’m writing to ask you to donate to Not In Our Town so we can continue production on this important new film and community engagement project.
Stories from the Tree of Life will share the voices and experiences of those who have faced hatred first- hand to explore vital questions about how to stem the tide of anti-Semitism and bigotry and point the way forward. The film will be told from a local point of view but will serve as a lens for the larger problems facing our country and the world. In Pittsburgh, the film will show a city mounting a spirited defiance against anti-Semitism and the white supremacist/white nationalist movement. Stories from the Tree of Life will show viewers how a community with strong connections across different faiths, race, ethnicity and political beliefs can hold fast against a mortal threat.
Like all of NIOT’s previous films, Stories from the Tree of Life will not only connect emotionally with audiences and share often-unheard stories of hope and activism, but will be expressly designed as part of an engagement strategy and organizing campaign for on-the-ground change as part of Not In Our Town’s work in communities across the country.
In the months since the attack, residents from all walks of life have gathered to grieve, and to seek comfort and healing. But they have also come together to engage in difficult dialogue about gun violence, hate speech and all forms of bigotry in their city, and to create plans and policies to prevent this from happening again.
"Eleven beautiful lives were cut down in our synagogue. But we're a tree of life, more leaves will grow back, more branches will grow back. We're not letting hate close our doors. Never.”
— Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA
Wasi Mohamed, a Muslim leader, immediately reached out to the synagogue and raised funds for the victims to show solidarity with the Jewish community.
“Pittsburgh is small, it seemed like everybody knew someone who was killed,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “A lot of us lost family that day.”In the face of death threats, Mayor Peduto, along with city and county officials and local activists, are leading an effort to ban assault weapons in the city of Pittsburgh. The Jewish community, led by the Jewish Federation, is building a model for resilience and response to hate violence for victims’ families, and the entire community. And, high school students in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood met with students and teachers from Parkland, Florida to strategize about ways to stop gun violence.
As residents and leaders forge new relationships across religious, ethnic, and racial lines, Pittsburgh is strengthening its collective bond. It is defining itself as a city that values safety, inclusion and a true sense of community. At NIOT, we quickly recognized that the Pittsburgh community’s powerful response to hate had great potential to inspire dialogue and action in cities across the country—and we began production on a film and community engagement project.
At this time of deep divisiveness and rising hate crime, communities need examples like Pittsburgh more than ever. As in Pittsburgh, where dozens of anti-Semitic incidents took place in the year leading up to the attack, there are literally hundreds of acts of hate and bigotry happening daily across the U.S.
In spite of this dangerous trend, we remain optimistic that cultivating communities who value and respect difference is attainable—because Not In Our Town works with these communities every day. Our model is based on the concept that when a diverse group of community members, civic leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement officials, students and educators come together to acknowledge the harm of racism, hate, and all forms of bigotry, and collaborate on actions, they can build the kind of understanding and social cohesion that will prevent hate and violence.
As we round the corner on the painful remembrance of the Tree of Life massacre, we need your support to do more to stop hate in the coming year.
Your Donation Will Bring Stories of Hope and Blueprints for Action to Local Communities.
Please do all you can this year to support Not In Our Town’s work to create and present films about communities like Pittsburgh to places around the country that desperately need to hear stories of hope.
Your gift will enable us to provide resources, guidance and coaching to the 57 new communities around the country who have reached out to us so far this year to learn about what they can do to counter hate.
Funding from you will support:
• Production on the Tree of Life film
• NIOT leadership for United Against Hate Week, a civic action campaign involving dozens of Bay area cities who are building a local force to stop hate, bullying and bias.
• Distribution of videos and action tips to students on how to stand up to hate and bullying at school.
• Impact tools and guidance for communities who reach out to NIOT for ways to respond to hate incidents and build respect and inclusion for all.
Our on the ground work in local communities is dramatically underfunded, yet we are having a tremendous impact. Your donation can make a big difference in our ability to respond to a growing network of local leaders who are ready to stop hate.
With deep gratitude for your commitment to this work,
Patrice O’Neill, Founder/Executive Producer