Alan Hausman intermingles wearing each hat. But in the five years since a gunman entered his Squirrel Hill synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018, and committed the worst antisemitic massacre on U.S. soil, Hausman has served as something else.
Audrey Glickman knows the story far too well.
She and her late companion, Joseph Charny, prayed during Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha’s Shabbat services that October morning and fled Pervin Chapel when the gunman opened fire, killing 11 congregants and forever changing the fabric of the city’s Jewish community. The couple survived by hiding inside a room near the synagogue’s choir loft and covering themselves with prayer shawls.
Glickman has watched Hausman, a warm-hearted man known for his knack for storytelling, navigate the weeks and months and years following the synagogue shooting. She says he has and continues to serve as a conduit between law enforcement and Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.
“He was in the center of everything — everyone overlooked him and he couldn’t tell anyone anything,” Glickman told the Chronicle. “At every step, he was arranging something else. He’s just done this stuff because he can, because he’s a good man.”
“He’s involved in everything,” she added. “Alan is the quiet center, the hub of the wheel — he’s holding everything together.”
Like his congregation, Hausman calls Shady Avenue home.
Hausman was raised along Shady Avenue and still lives on the Squirrel Hill road, albeit further up the hill from where he spent his childhood. He attended Minadeo Elementary School and Taylor Allderdice High School — both of them near or on the roadway.
Tree of Life congregation — which merged with Hausman’s synagogue, Or L’Simcha, in 2010 — opened its building at the corner of Wilkins and Shady avenues around 1953. Several additions and renovations came in the decades that followed.
Though Hausman was elected Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha’s president after the tragic shooting, it is not his first time serving as a Jewish community leader. That came several years earlier when he was president of a Pittsburgh lodge of B’nai Brith, a Jewish service organization committed to the security and continuity of both Jews and the State of Israel. He also worked as a district treasurer.
To most, though, Hausman is a first responder. An emergency management specialist for the City of Pittsburgh, Hausman said he started that part of his life as a fire bureau logistics manager.
Hausman, who co-workers say is a whiz with outfitting emergency vehicles, has worked as a member of the Region 13 Taskforce, a 12-county emergency management agency, since 1998. He’s been working for the city since 2007.
None of it, though, prepared him for Oct. 27, 2018.
Hausman was with his wife, Stacey, in central Pennsylvania that morning, not shul, when the calls about an active shooter came in. He quickly helped set up the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh as an operations center and sped back to Squirrel Hill on the Pennsylvania Turnpike as fast as he could.
In the days that followed, he worked out logistics for funerals and personally escorted Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers to and from memorial services. As investigators and, later, contractors picked apart the synagogue, he was the one who provided info on the building’s structural nuances — or took calls about the location of something as simple as a panel box.
Years later, Hausman coordinated travel arrangements for survivors and victims’ families as the trial of the shooter unfolded in a federal court Downtown.
“It’s almost like you were designed to be in this position at this time to help your community through this,” Hausman remembered FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert A. Jones telling him one morning after the shooting.
Even to this day, Jones calls Hausman “absolutely instrumental” to how officials handled the incident — and, of course, its aftermath.
“As you can imagine, the first few hours and days of an investigation of this magnitude are incredibly challenging and, as both a Pittsburgh EMS member and Tree of Life congregant, Alan served as an effective bridge between the entire Tree of Life community and the FBI,” said Jones, who today works for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jones said Hausman was essential because he was “calm and professional” and knew Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha inside and out.
In the months that followed, when law enforcement needed to walk someone through the scene of the crime, they always called Hausman.
Steve Wilharm’s friendship with Hausman started with a call he only remembers vaguely about 35 years ago.
Wilharm, a Pittsburgh native and today Allegheny County’s division manager for emergency management, was new to working with the county and had been called out for something. It could’ve been a gas leak, maybe a fire. There, he met Hausman, who was volunteering at the time for the Salvation Army.
He ran into Hausman again when the latter was working in the Monroeville area as an “upfitter,” or installer, of lights, sirens and gear on emergency vehicles. The two later worked together on an emergency planning committee.
“His memory is scary, impeccable,” Wilharm laughed. “I’d say to him, ‘Hey, Alan, this light went out on my vehicle,’ and he’d say, ‘Oh, that’s a 7-3-6-A’ without even looking up; it was incredible.”
“He always paid attention to detail,” he added. “The bulb, he knows the bulb number. He can name the number of the fuses — ‘the I-17 fuse’—– and sure enough that’s what it was.”
Darryl Jones, chief of the Fire Bureau of Pittsburgh, also is impressed with Hausman’s know-how and work ethic. The two worked together years ago at the company Keystone Fire Apparatus, Inc. Today, Hausman reports to Jones in his capacity as the city’s emergency management coordinator.
Jones also worked with Hausman in responding to the 2018 synagogue shooting. When he first saw Hausman, Jones said he “was in a different place” and seemed distracted.
“Despite all that, he set up what we needed,” said Jones, who recently finished his 16th year as fire chief. “He was an invaluable resource to us, not only in managing that incident but in recovering from that incident.”
Returning to the Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha site has been tough for those selected to do so. But Hausman said he is moving forward with and passionately touting the site’s rebuilding plans.
His wife, Stacey, a bookkeeper and the mother of their 23-year-old son, Duncan, said it’s time to return to “a new normal.”
“I am looking forward to going back to what would be our building, even if it’s not the same,” said Stacey Hausman, who recently celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary with her husband. “It will be more comforting. It’ll be our space.”
It’s been a tough year, punctuated by a trial, in which Hausman testified for the prosecution, that ran for much of the summer.
Hausman admits that the trial against the synagogue shooter has emboldened his views of how to move on from Oct. 27, 2018.
Hausman still won’t say the shooter’s name.
“I have zero feelings for the bad guy, none,” he said. “It’s almost in my mind as if he doesn’t exist. My concentration has always been on the survivors, the victims and their families, the officers.”
Wilharm said the incident has really changed Hausman. He remembers his old friend talking about the emergency management response to the Oct. 27, 2018, shooting during an emergency planning committee hearing in Coraopolic in the following January.
“He broke down a few times,” Wilharm said. “The people in the audience did, as well. But he talked through it.”
“Alan knew every single person in the temple, that’s tough,” Wilharm added. “I’ve been out on a lot of calls, fires and plane crashes, but it never happened to me that I came onto a scene and saw someone that I knew or loved. That’s left some emotional scars for him.”
In the shooting’s aftermath, Shawn Brokos said Hausman has become an indispensable partner in the Jewish community’s fight against antisemitism.
Brokos, a 24-year FBI veteran who today heads community security efforts for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, talked with Hausman regularly after the synagogue shooting and in the wake of this summer’s trial.
But, the two have remained in regular contact as Brokos deals with gatherings — and antisemitic incidents — stemming from the conflict unfolding in Gaza, kickstarted when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing and injuring thousands of civilians.
“He is probably near the top, if not the top, of the most frequent contacts in my cellphone,” Brokos told the Chronicle.
Brokos remembers asking Hausman for tours of the Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha building after the shooting.
“As painful and as gut-wrenching as it had to be for him (to tour the site), he was amazing and he was so patient, walking us room to room and talking to us about what happened,” she said. “In typical fashion, he was always so accommodating, always with a smile. He was walking through some of the most painful places … and he did it week after week.”
“That is Alan to a T,” Brokos said. “He goes above and beyond every day.”
His wife says it’s just what Hausman does.
“He’s been doing this forever and he knows everyone,” Stacey Hausman said.
“Everywhere we go in the world, Alan knows someone. He just knows everyone, and everyone knows him.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.