Pitt remembers Holocaust survivors and Tree of Life victims with Lest We Forget art installation | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pitt remembers Holocaust survivors and Tree of Life victims with Lest We Forget art installation

click to enlarge Pitt remembers Holocaust survivors and Tree of Life victims with Lest We Forget art installation
Photo: Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher speaking with Holocaust survivors at Lest We Forget.
On Oct. 18, the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh unveiled Lest We Forget, an outdoor art installation by German-Italian artist Luigi Toscano.

On view outside the Cathedral of Learning on Pitt’s campus, the public installation is presented as part of Toscano's traveling art exhibit featuring more than 200 large, high-resolution portraits of Holocaust survivors from around the world. The installation lines the pathway from the Cathedral of Learning to Heinz Memorial Chapel with 60 portraits of Holocaust survivors, including 16 never-before-seen portraits of Pittsburgh-area survivors photographed by Toscano earlier this year.

In a press release, Toscano says the project seeks to “confront passers-by as a reminder of history, and to raise awareness of the hatred and bigotry present in society today.”

Lest We Forget has appeared in various high-profile locations, including the United Nations headquarters in New York and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., but its presence in Pittsburgh serves as a way to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Oct. 27, 2018 shooting at Tree of Life synagogue. The attack killed 11 people and wounded seven. It’s considered the largest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.

“When I met with [Toscano] and officials at Pitt, we all felt that it was crucial to get this exhibit into Pittsburgh at this moment,” says Dr. Lauren Bairnsfather, director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, in a press release. “We need to address the hate-charged climate that surrounds us right now, and we look forward to incorporating materials into the exhibit that address current concerns in our society.”

Since the shooting, the Holocaust Center has expanded its community programming to address modern-day anti-Semitism and honor the memory of the victims, the efforts of which include Lest We Forget.

Kathy Humphrey, Pitt senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees, says Lest We Forget provides an “important opportunity" to further Pitt's "ongoing community-wide dialogue promoting acceptance and inclusion.”

“We are grateful to partner with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh to bring this incredible experience to our campus,” says Humphrey. “The faces of Holocaust survivors can remind us all of the need for constant vigilance against hatred and bigotry of all kinds. Our students, faculty and staff – along with visitors from around the city and the world – will benefit from the presence of this powerful statement.”