Tree of Life survivors continue healing process through tattoo therapy

Joshua Axelrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Religious News

Hindes owns a small marketing firm and occasionally dabbles in graphic design for his job. On the morning of the shooting, he was in Greenfield helping a friend move when he heard sirens. He found out where they were going on his way home and, upon returning to his computer, banged out the symbol in 15 minutes before posting it to Facebook.

"Stronger than hate" quickly became the city's motto in the shooting's aftermath, and Hindes' symbol was the visual representation of that ideal.

"I don't see it as mine or something I created," Hindes said. "It's everyone's. ... It's Pittsburgh's symbol. It went viral because of Pittsburgh being Pittsburgh. I don't know that it could happen that way in another city."

Although she didn't have that specific symbol on her body, Suzan Hauptman, 57, of Squirrel Hill, already had a Pittsburgh-related tattoo on her left leg. She was a Tree of Life member from birth through college. The shooting coincided with the 33rd anniversary of her brother's Bar Mitzvah at the synagogue. She's aware of of the stigmas surrounding tattoos in Judaism, but in her mind, they can be "a beautiful way to express yourself" as long as they're not offensive.

On Wednesday, she was receiving a flower with a centerpiece containing 11 petals to honor the 11 victims.


"This man who came into a house of worship took lives artificially," Hauptman said. "They did not get the opportunity to die naturally. I felt that if you take something from nature and put some sort of significance around it, that's going to leave a lasting impression."

Tattoos with such lovely meanings are exactly what Dershowitz and Healing Ink aim to give individuals impacted by the tragedy. Dershowitz said the JCC event was originally slated for last year but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, he is simply happy his organization is finally able to help Tree of Life survivors open to his unique brand of healing.

"We just want them to know that they're part of a whole now, a bigger thing," he said. "We're just honored that they're joining the family."

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