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Bound in the Bond of Life:  Pittsburgh Writers Reflect on the Tree of Life Shooting

Publication date: October 27, 2020

Publicity contact: Chloe Wertz at University of Pittsburgh Press,

Press Coverage and Reviews

Publishers Weekly August 14 2020 “This remarkable collection is a powerful testament to how individuals and communities cope with an act of unbelievable violence. “

Hey Alma August 26, 2020 ” I was particularly struck by the wide range of writers Lidji and Kissileff found to contribute to the volume, and saw my own experience covering the tragedy reflected back at me through the essays of the journalists.

Read if you’re into: things that will make you cry and feel proud to be Jewish.”

Erika Dreifus Practicing Writing blog, Forthcoming Jewish Books  – “Slated for an on-sale date of October 27—coinciding with the second anniversary of the murderous attack—this anthology surely won’t be an easy read. But, knowing a few of the contributors, I suspect strongly that it will be an important and worthwhile one.”

Hadassah Magazine, Sept/ Oct 2020 “Gathering accounts from local journalists, academics, rabbis and community members, Eric Lidji and Beth Kissileff reveal efforts to make sense of the shooting, from raw, first-person descriptions to pieces by those who translated the horror into activism.”

Pittsburgh Post Gazette September 27, 2020.  “Sweat Equity: A Tragedy made writing harder, but she needed the stories to move forward.”  Article by Tony Norman about my writing life.

Pittsburgh Current.  October 6, 2020.  Cover Story.  “The voices that animate this collection are varied and stunning.”  Words of Remembrance: In new anthology, Pittsburgh writers Reflect on the 2018 Tree of Life tragedy. 

Too Jewish podcast.  October 12, 2020 taped October 7, 2020.  Discussion about anthology with Rabbi Sam Cohon, longer segment about minute 37, shorter at minute 15.

Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.  October 15, 2020.  David Rullo writes, “The Pittsburgh journalists, spiritual leaders, historians, writers, poets and academics presented in the collection share their pain, fear, confusion and anger in writings that are scholarly and personal, raw and profound.”

Jewish Boston. October 19, 2020.  Judy Bolton-Fasman writes,  “Anthologies by their very nature can be uneven, but each of the essays in this book is an accomplished, genuine and exquisite paean to the tragedy.”

TribLive. October 20, 2020.  Pittsburgh Writers reflect on Tree of Life Massacre in New Book.  

PittNews.   October 21, 2020.   Siddhi Shockey quotes me, ““And I think anybody that’s coping with any kind of difficult event will find something of value and of meaning in the book.”

Associated Press.  October 24, 2020.  David Crary includes the anthology in a report about the three congregations after two years, “Attack then pandemic: Pittsburgh Jewish congregations cope.”  Reprinted in Washington Post and others.  

Times of Israel, October 27, 2020. Renee Ghert Zand writes, that the collection “allows local writers to engage with their sorrow, and to share their personal perspectives on how the shooting affected them, their families, friends and neighbors.” Ghert Zand adds, “The result is a very moving, if sometimes emotionally challenging, flow of essays arranged into three sections. “

WESA, October 27, 2020.  Bill O’Driscoll quotes me, ““If the news is about what happened, the personal essay is about the emotions and feelings behind what happened,” Kissileff said.

Times of Israel blogs, October 27, 2020.  Rachel Sharansky Danziger writes, “Yet the focus of these essays is their writers’ lived experience, thus offering us a way to connect despite our differences.” Danziger continues, “They give those of us who experienced the Tree of Life Massacre from afar a glimpse into the long road that lay – and still lies – ahead of those who lived through it more intimately. From the challenges of handling the artifacts that were created in response to the massacre to the difficulties of moving forwards as a congregation, the essays in the book explore the many small steps that take place long after the public attention shifts elsewhere. By doing so, they offer us more than a glimpse into other people’s experience; they reveal to us their courage and resilience, and offer inspiration when it comes to our own lives.”

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 27, 2020.  Tony Norman writes, “Everyone has different ways of processing and analyzing grief, but the variety and level of insight in the majority of these essays is superb by any standard. There are far too many remarkable writers and essays in this collection for me to list individually here, but reviews by folks who don’t have an essay in the book are bearing out my perception that “Bound in the Bond of Life” is truly something necessary in these dark times — an honest accounting of the struggle between hope and despair in a world awash in hate.”

Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  October 27, 2020. Peter Smith writes, “essayists wrote of how they processed the initial shock of the attack and put it in both personal and wider context: recalling life in the dynamic, diverse neighborhood of Squirrel Hill but also their past experiences of anti-Semitism, which led one writer to describe her reaction to the news as “shocked, not surprised.”

The Book of Life podcast and blog about Jewish books. October 27, 2020.   Heidi Rabinowitz interviews Beth Kissileff and Eric Lidji about the anthology.  

Haaretz, October 28, 2020.  Judy Maltz quotes from and discusses a number of the essays and says of the foreword, “Shribman poignantly writes, it was a tragedy whose repercussions are still unfolding.”  October 29, 2020.   Teaneck, NJ native’s anthology recalls horror, resilience of Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.  Deena Yellin writes, “The book contains beautifully written essays about the myriad ways in which people grapple with horror and grief. “

American Jewish World.  November 6, 2020.  Editor Mordecai Specktor quotes the anthology in his editorial “After the Election.”

Times of Israel blogs, November 10, 2020.  Sheldon Kirshner writes, “The massacre in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood is the subject of a book of thoughtful essays by local residents. Bound in the Bond of Life: Pittsburgh Writers Reflect on the Tree of Life Tragedy (University of Pittsburgh Press) brings back all the heartache, anguish, fear and sorrow of that terrible day.”

Jerusalem Report in print and Jerusalem Post on line.  November 11, 2020.  Linda Gradstein writes “All of the pieces are well-written, and offer insights into the horrific attack.”

The Reporter Group.  November 19, 2020.  Rabbi Rachel Esserman writes, “If you are looking for answers about why tragedies like this occur, you won’t find them in these essays. The writers struggle with that because there is no one clear answer. Instead, they look at the ways people can reach out and help each other as a way to create meaning. “

The Jewish Standard, November 24, 2020.  Larry Yudelson writes, “What do you do after the unimaginable happens?…Often, you do what you’ve always done, but with a renewed sense of purpose. If you’re a writer and editor, you might find yourself editing an anthology of different writers addressing the the community-shattering horror.”

Texas Jewish Post, December 2, 2020. Harriet Gross writes, “May it[the anthology] be well and thoughtfully read and treasured by many as the true, living Tree of Life it itself is.”

The Wisdom Daily.  December 15, 2020.  Rabbi Brad Hirschfield interviews me about the anthology in a piece titled, “Writing, Thinking and Talking about Tragedy: A Conversation with Beth Kissileff. 

The Christian Century.  January 4, 2021.  Pastor Ross Carmichael writes, “The loss of these beloved individuals and the effects of that day’s trauma cannot be adequately articulated. Bound in the Bond of Life acknowledges this and does not presume to do so. Instead it offers reflections from various contributors, each from a unique perspective and place in the community. Together, they attempt to remember the day and its victims, come to terms with their experiences, and find a way forward in hope.”

Jewish Book Council.  January 4, 2021.  Rabbi Jack Bieler writes, “While the news­pa­per colum­nist Tony Nor­man, in ​I Read Some­where that Pitts­burgh is Stronger than Hate,” and sev­er­al oth­er con­trib­u­tors, doc­u­ment a dis­turb­ing num­ber of mur­ders and racist inci­dents in the Pitts­burgh area over the years, Nor­man hopes that the pos­i­tive and con­struc­tive reac­tion that the tragedy has elicit­ed will help every com­mu­ni­ty ​begin a seri­ous dia­logue about how to deal with the haters who live among us and who have been nor­mal­ized by our indifference. It would be reas­sur­ing if Pitts­burgh end­ed up serv­ing as a cat­a­lyst for a gen­er­al Amer­i­can reassess­ment of such issues.”

The Michigan Quarterly Review on line.  February 10, 2021.  Writer Risa Miller says, “In the Afterword, editor Kissileff sums up the endeavor of the book: “Can one heal after gun violence? Can any of us feel safe again?…Perhaps for those  reading, there will be an impetus to think about…and ameliorate the twin problems of  antisemitism and gun violence…as well as the fear of the immigrant that is said to have  propelled the shooter.” To that end, I would add that this is would be a book for high  school and college curriculum.”

Interview with me in Bearings Online, magazine of Collegeville Institute. March 11,2021.  Bound in the Bond of Life: An Interview with Beth Kissileff by Susan Sink.  

Librarian Eli Lieberman says in the May/ June 2021 edition of the Association of Jewish Libraries News and Reviews, “This collection is recommended for all levels of Jewish libraries, as this event should never be forgotten, and a deeper understand-
ing of what happened that day could provide context and healing. Bound in the Bond of Life, with its many viewpoints, illustrates the resilience of the Pittsburgh and American Jewish communities.”

Pittsburgh Magazine includes Bound in the Bond of Life in 10 Books with Pittsburgh Connections Worth Reading on May 14, 2021. Book editor Kristofer Collins writes, ” Journalists, religious studies scholars, memoirists and poets all contribute nuanced and thought-provoking essays, each offering a unique perspective on what happened that day and why it happened here. As Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman ruefully reflects, “Anyone who actually lives in this town knows that Pittsburgh is more than familiar with the kind of hatred expressed by the gunman. The violence he used to actualize that hatred is not unprecedented in this town. It was bred here.” 

Scoundrel Time review by novelist Ruchama Feuerman on June 2, 2021 says, “The book was more than a powerful read. It insisted that I feel what I didn’t want to, what I tried to blot out. It took me somewhere. I wasn’t in Squirrel Hill on that day in late October. I wasn’t a witness. But through this book, to paraphrase the critic Irving Howe, I became a witness to the witnesses.”

Columbia College Today, Spring/ Summer 2021 lists on alumni bookshelf.  

Tradition:  A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought has a review by Sarah Davis Rudolph which says,  ” Uncovering these unexpected connections is strengthening; perhaps, on some level, in the same way several of the writers describe feeling strengthened by the overwhelming support from strangers with their own senses of connection to the shooting. Hearing about others’ anchors – not just what anchors them, but their insights into how it does so – helps us understand and firm up our own anchors, as we realize they function in similar ways…..My reading, like their writing, is relevant and valuable in the larger picture of the experience and aftermath and memory of the Pittsburgh shooting. And in truth, despite the challenges in reading a book like this, I couldn’t put it down. The writing itself is phenomenal, and the grief is meant to be shared. ” October 26, 2021. 


Excerpts from Bound in the Bond of Life

Commentary  October 2020.    Abby Wisse Schachter, Walking on Shabbat after a Massacre. 

The Forward  October 27, 2020.  Eric Lidji, I’m the archivist of the Tree of Life shooting.  Here is how I process it.  

Hey Alma   October 27, 2020.  Andrew Goldstein, Remember What happened in Pittsburgh.  

Religion News Service, October 27, 2020.  Campbell Robertson, Against the Darkness: Remembering Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life shooting.

Tablet October 27, 2020.  October 27, 2020.  Arlene Weiner, Shocked, not Surprised.  

YU Observer.  October 29, 2020.  Susan Jacobs Jablow on Two years later, reflecting on the Tree of Life shooting.  


Questioning Return

Publication date: November 15, 2016.

Publicity contact: Robert Mandel at Mandel Vilar Press,

Press Coverage and Reviews

  • Review on the JOFA blog by Rosellen Bell says “this sensitively written novel will delight the reader by appealing both to the intellect and to one’s appreciation of the senses.” Posted May 5, 2020.
  • Review in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette by Laura Malt Schneiderman says   “The narrative has an almost Russian-novel quality, following each thought of the protagonist” and that ” small observations pepper the story, drawing the reader in.”  Posted December 3, 2017.
  • Review by Sandee Brawarsky in the New York Jewish Week  “This is a novel of ideas about academic life, returning to tradition and Jewish observance; Kissileff writes with originality about Americans abroad in Israel, Jewish identity and heavenly and earthly Jerusalem.” Posted June 21, 2017
  •  Review in the Reporter Group by Rabbi Rachel Esserman “The inclusion of a wide variety of voices – from a Reconstructionist rabbinical student to Modern Orthodox Jews to baalat teshuvah – makes the discussions fascinating, as all struggle to discover a religious path that speaks to their spiritual needs.”
  • Review in the  J Weekly by Howard Freedman says “a memorable story of personal challenge and change set against the city’s unique spiritual landscape.”
  • Review in the Jewish Standard by Rabbi Avraham Bronstein says “Kissileff does an excellent job of conveying the intellectual and cultural depth of Wendy’s world” and concludes ” If the most Jewish answer is another rhetorical question, she is saying, then the best teshuvah is the kind that leads to ever more she’eilot.”
  • Review by writer Risa Miller in The Lehrhaus   calls the novel “erudite” and says “I’d invite her to my house any Shabbos; she has an open invitation.”
  • Listed as one of the “best buys for bookworms” by U Penn affiliated authors.
  • Interview with Rabbi Brad Hirschfield in The Wisdom Daily .   November 16, 2016

Reading Genesis

Published February 25, 2016.

Publicity contact:  Celeste Scollan at Bloomsbury, CeleReading Genesis _ Reading

Bloomsbury includes Reading Genesis among its best selling titles!

Press Coverage and Reviews

  • Review in Reading Religion a publication of the American Academy of Religion by Philipp Reisner “This original volume succeeds in introducing the reader to the pitfalls and neuralgic points of Genesis studies. It not only invites people from diverse fields and backgrounds to read the first book of the Bible, but also encourages people to ask how the many conundrums presented by the text will be resolved by future readers. One can only wish that many people read this interesting and entertaining book to test their preconceptions and broaden their general knowledge of Genesis and its rich and thriving reception history.”
    posted April 28, 2020
  • Review in Regent’s Park Oxford Reviews.   “This is an original, and sometimes outstandingly good book which will be enjoyed by all who care about reading, preaching and living Genesis.” Rosa Hunt.  April 2017.
  • Questions in Genesis.  A book of essays asks, is the Bible literature? How is a blessing like an oath? And what if Eve was just hungry?  By Rabbi Anna Levin Rosen in the Christian Century. May 4, 2017.
  • Reviewed in San Francisco J Weekly “a collection of essays assembled by Beth Kissileff with startling breadth” November 3, 2016
  • “Reading Genesis: Scholar compiles views of Bible’s first book through many lenses”  New Jersey Jewish Standard, October 27, 2016
  • Reviewed in Hadassah Magazine October, 2016
  • Featured book in “Book Marks,” Chicago Jewish Star, September 23-29, 2016
  • Mentioned in University of Pennsylvania alumni magazine  The Penn Gazette June, 2016
  • Mentioned as part of holiday traditons in newletter of Horace Mann School 12/29/2016
  • Bible spotlighted as local author hosts book launchThe Jewish Chronicle, 2/18/2016
  • ‘Reading Genesis: Beginnings’: a treasure trove of modern interpretationsThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/21/2016
  • Twenty-Three Ways (and Counting) of Looking at the BibleZeteo Journal, 6/28/2016