A Pittsburgh-based criminal defense lawyer says he’s doing his part to raise awareness about the hundreds of civilians that Hamas terrorists kidnapped in Israel on Oct. 7.
Attorney George Heym, who’s practiced for some 15 years, is paying to run 10 electronic billboards around the clock throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, mostly in Allegheny County, sharing names and photographs of those abducted by Hamas. He’s financing the project out of his own pocket.
The billboards, which feature an image of a kidnapped civilian along with the texts “Kidnapped by Hamas” and “Bring them home,” have been shown at least 15,000 times in 10 days and received nearly 115,000 impressions, Heym said.
“The billboards aren’t really aimed at the Jewish community,” Heym told the Chronicle. “The Jewish community knows what’s going on, (but) there are a lot of people that are being lied to.”
“My goal is to inform the general public that this is still going on — these people are still being held hostage,” he added. “These people are living through a hell most of us couldn’t conceive.”
Heym has circulated online a video showing college-aged students tearing down flyers about the kidnapped, many of them bearing the familiar red and white bars, near the University of Pittsburgh’s campus.
He calls the trend, which has been spotted in many cities, “very disheartening.”
“The people that are tearing these down, they’re saying, ‘Your life doesn’t matter.’ ‘Jewish lives don’t matter,’” Heym said. “It’s not as easy to tear down billboards.”
Many of the billboards are in high-traffic areas, one near the intersection of Castle Shannon Boulevard and Library Road in Pittsburgh’s South Hills, Heym said. One is located in McKeesport, another near the Boston Bridge, which spans the Youghiogheny River and connects Versailles and Elizabeth Township.
How long will Heym run the billboards?
“Honestly, as long as I can,” he said. “Hopefully, until tomorrow — if they release the hostages, I’ll bring those billboards down.
“I would hope I don’t have a reason to run them.”
The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh applauds citizen efforts to spread information about the conflict in the Middle East, spokesman Adam Hertzman said Monday.
“We have been really impressed with the outpouring of support and particularly the programs and events community volunteers have organized to raise awareness of the hostages kidnapped by terrorists,” Hertzman said. “Every day, more outreach seems to be popping up to try to bring these innocent civilians home.”
Heym previously sought elected office, running for a Common Pleas judgeship as recently as 2021. But he wants to make one thing clear: One has nothing to do with the other.
“This is not a political action,” Heym said. “It doesn’t mention politicians or anything. It’s purely informational.”
“We’re all doing what we can,” he added. “to help these people.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.