Mark Oppenheimer

Cindy Seip

Mark Oppenheimer is the author of five books, including Knocking on Heaven’s Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture. He was the religion columnist for The New York Times and has written for GQ, Mother Jones, and The Nation, among other publications. He is also the host of Tablet magazine’s podcast Unorthodox. Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood (Knopf) is a portrait of the struggles and triumphs of one of America’s oldest Jewish neighborhoods in the wake of unspeakable tragedy. Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, is known for its tight-knit community rich in multigenerational families. On October 27, 2018, a gunman killed 11 Jews worshipping at the town’s Tree of Life synagogue, the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history. But rather than focusing on the criminal and his crime, Oppenheimer instead presents the historic, spirited community at the center of this heartbreak. He speaks with residents and nonresidents, Jews and gentiles, survivors and witnesses, teenagers and seniors, activists and historians. Their stories provide a varied and nuanced account of collective grief, love, support, and revival as Oppenheimer also details the difficult dialogue and messy confrontations the community had to face in the process of healing. Kirkus called it “sensitive, and beautifully written … This book abounds with insights for cities facing the aftermath of any mass-casualty event.”