Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and Daniel Leger: Where Are Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Survivors Now?

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In October 2018, a hail of gunfire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, left 11 people dead and multiple others injured. While the authorities had the suspected gunman under custody, the survivors were left to pick up the pieces. HBO’s ‘A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting’ delves into that fateful day and what happened in the aftermath. Luckily, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and Daniel Leger were two people inside the synagogue who survived. So, if you’re curious to find out more about them, we’ve got you covered.

Who Are Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and Daniel Leger?

Jeffrey Myers was born and raised in New Jersey. His father was a lawyer, and his mother was a homemaker who returned to work after their children grew up. Jeffrey was interested in religion from a young age and was mentored by an older hazzan, a distinct type of ordained minister. When the former was a teenager, his mentor suffered a stroke, and the others in the choir urged him to take over.

Daniel Leger//Image Credit: Jewish Healthcare Foundation

Jeffrey said, “I was a kid. I was 15, I think. I can say I just somehow had a natural affinity for it. I knew all four parts of every piece, memorized.” In the years after that, he got his education at a seminary and eventually served as a minister in New Jersey and Long Island, New York, before moving to Pittsburgh to serve as the rabbi at the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2017. Sadly, a little over a year after, tragedy struck on October 27, 2018, with a gunman storming the synagogue during the morning service.

Initially, Jeffrey and some others heard what they thought was a falling coat rack, though, in reality, it was a gunshot. He and a few others left through a door to find some hiding spots. When Jeffrey came back to try and help others, he realized the shooter was coming, so he hid in an upstairs bathroom and called 911, holding the door until help arrived.

As for Daniel Leger, he was part of the Dor Hadash congregation and was in the synagogue when his life changed forever. The hospice nurse and chaplain spent much of his career around death yet didn’t realize he would get so close to it that morning. Daniel was shot in the chest and pelvis and later fell down a flight of stairs facing a wall. He could hear everything and held on for help as he bled out.

Daniel stated, “During that time, I had the opportunity to really reflect on my life and the fact that it was coming to a close, which it didn’t. But the fact of the matter is that a couple more minutes and it would have. I’m pleased to tell you that all the things that I had helped other people deal with and manage over my career really came to me at that moment. I was able to appreciate my life and appreciate the people in my life.”

What Happened to Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and Daniel Leger?

Jeffrey became the unofficial spokesperson for the community in the aftermath of the incident, appearing on television and hosting then-President Donald Trump and his family at the synagogue. Over time, he made it clear that he wanted to get rid of hate in the world, saying, “The only way to change the world is to show love, not hate. Hate can never beat hate. And that has been the guiding force for me throughout that.”

Image Credit: American Jewish Committee/YouTube

Jeffrey has not mentioned “hate” since November 2018 and has spoken about hate speech and its effects all over the country. He virtually held religious services during the pandemic, marking a busy time. Furthermore, the rabbi received the Simon Wiesenthal Center Medal of Valor in 2019 and a Schechter Award for his interfaith Evening of Harmony.

Apart from that, Jeffrey received an honorary doctorate in Jewish Music from The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and an honorary doctorate of divinity from Washington & Jefferson College, Pennsylvania. He continues to live in Pittsburgh with his wife, Janice, a special educator at a school; they have two kids, Rachel and Aaron. Jeffrey has also been on several boards, including the National Education Commission of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Institute for Congregational School Principals Advisory Board.

Meanwhile, Daniel Leger was in the hospital for about a month before being discharged. During that time, he learned that the officer who rescued him, Tim Matson, was also injured and recovering. They developed a strong bond in the following time, and in 2019, Tim sent Daniel the Medal of Valor he received. In 2021, they donated the medal to the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.

Daniel said regarding his life after the incident, “I am blessed with a wonderful wife. She is my rock. And one of the things that we did together was to go back into the building with the FBI. And it was really important to do that and to be able not to be carried out this time, but to walk out.” The retired nurse enjoys spending time with his family, including his wife, Ellen, and two sons, Noah and Jake. He lives in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, and plays the cello other than caring for his pet dogs and cats. Apart from that, Daniel reads newspapers and scriptures.

Read More: Who Were the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Victims?