A journalist offers a portrait of Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, where a gunman murdered eleven worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018 in the most deadly anti-Semitic attack in American history.
... a poignant, deeply researched account of the Pittsburgh Jewish neighborhood in the aftermath of tragedy ... propulsive ... He does a lovely job of bringing the essence of this charming, walkable place to life ... How 'Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood' became the site of the most deadly antisemitic attack on American soil and what happened afterward unfold with the precision of the best suspense stories ... Oppenheimer is sympathetic to the ways Jewish culture stands at the crossroads of proud resistance and self-protective withdrawal, bold activism and self-effacement. The people he highlights are treated with a knowing, affectionate wink, a landsman’s recognition.
His compelling exploration of its impact on the community is by turns searing and compassionate. It is an emotionally draining terrain, flecked with occasional, unexpected pockets of consolation. But in placing this hate crime against our country’s patchwork canvas of faith, politics and violence, Oppenheimer provides a powerful meditation on the changing meaning of community and belonging in an age of disconnection and isolation ... Nonetheless...I wanted Oppenheimer to dig deeper into the psychological impact and the enduring ache that trauma leaves behind ... his familiarity [with Squirrel Hill] lends his empathic interviews depth and nuance ... he is consistently attuned to the pulse of the reeling community as it struggles to regain some sense of balance.
If you are wondering if an outsider could hope to capture the mood—maybe even the soul—of a neighborhood to which he does not belong following an unthinkably horrific event, I tender this take: Perhaps an outsider, as it turns out, is best suited to do so. Oppenheimer’s being far enough removed from Squirrel Hill allows him to observe meaningful details that could be too close in the line of vision for natives to see as clearly. Oppenheimer reports with candor and clarity in 18 chapters ... To be sure, he doesn’t cover everything that occurred in the year after the shooting, but he covers a lot and he does it well ... For the most part, the author’s depictions of people and events throughout Squirrel Hill are accurate and honest—sometimes to a fault: He exposes the good, as well as the not-so-good, in several community members. While those warts are surely there, I wondered if it was really necessary to reveal them ... In focusing his lens on the individuals who are Squirrel Hill, Oppenheimer has created an inspiring portrait of a resilient and, yes, loving community.