Synagogue Shooting in Pittsburgh Kills 11
On Saturday, October 28th, a gunman burst through the doors of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, shouting anti-semitic phrases and firing a semi-automatic rifle. By the time the shooting stopped, 11 lay dead and four, including two police officers, were wounded.
The violent attack, which occurred during Shabbat services at the Synagogue, has renewed debates about anti-semitism within the United States, and how current politics have fanned the flame of such hate speech. American Jews all over the Country led vigils and prayer sessions to raise awareness about the shooting and its victims.
The shooter was identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers, who was captured at the scene of the crime after a firefight with SWAT officers. Though injured, he appeared in court on Wednesday to be indicted for 44 criminal counts, including hate crimes.
Mr. Bowers was a virile anti-semite, who frequented white supremacist websites and parroted conspiracy theories blaming Jews. He frequently posted on the social network, Gab, calling Jews, “the children of Satan” in his profile biography. A prolific gun owner, Mr. Bowers had over 21 weapons legally registered to his name. He brought three of these, two Glock handguns and an AR-15, with him to the deadly shooting on Saturday.
The victims of the tragedy ranged from ages 54 to 97, and included leaders of the Pittsburgh Jewish community as well as prominent figures within the Tree of Life Synagogue. In the wake of the shooting, a large memorial has appeared outside the place of worship, and vigils have been held for the dead across the nation.
Many high profile Jewish figures, including Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, took to the media to speak out against the shooting. On twitter, Netanyahu released a statement saying that he was, “heartbroken and appalled by the murderous attack” and decried it as, “horrendous anti-semitic brutality.”
United States President Donald Trump also spoke out about the shooting, calling it, “an assault on humanity.” However, the President was quick to heap blame on the news media, saying that the “great anger in our country” has been caused by the “the fake news media, the true enemy of the people.”
In the days after the shooting, tensions have been running high, with talking heads from both parties blaming each other for the toxic rhetoric which may have inspired this shooting, as well as the recent pipebombs attacks. The impending midterm elections in early November have also increased the partisan divide in the United States.
A group of Jewish leaders from Pittsburgh composed an open letter to President Trump demanding that he not visit the city until he, “fully denounce(s) white nationalism,” and the Democratic Mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, also voiced his displeasure with the President’s plan to travel to the Pennsylvania city. However, by the time this article was written, Mr. Trump was on his way to the Tree of Life Synagogue to meet with survivors.