MASSACRE IN PITTSBURGH SYNAGOGUE: 11 Shot Dead On Shabbos Morning

36

A gunman who’s believed to have spewed anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media barged into a baby-naming ceremony at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday and opened fire, killing 11 people in one of the deadliest attacks on Jews in U.S. history.

The 20-minute attack at Tree of Life Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood left at least six others wounded, including four police officers who dashed to the scene, authorities said.

[THE LATEST ON THE PITTSBURGH MASSACRE: Trump Orders Flags Be Flown At Half-Staff; Calls Attack “Evil Anti-Semitism”]

The suspect, Robert Bowers, traded gunfire with police and was shot several times. Bowers, who was in fair condition at a hospital, was expected to face federal hate-crime charges.

“Please know that justice in this case will be swift and it will be severe,” Scott Brady, the chief federal prosecutor in western Pennsylvania, said at a late-afternoon news conference, characterizing the slaughter as a “terrible and unspeakable act of hate.”

[WATCH: Trump: If Pittsburgh Synagogue Had An Armed Guard “They Would Have Been Able To Stop” The Shooter]

The shooting came amid a rash of high-profile attacks in an increasingly divided country, including the series of pipe bombs mailed over the past week to prominent Democrats and former officials.

The shooting also immediately reignited the longstanding national debate about guns: President Donald Trump said the outcome might have been different if the synagogue “had some kind of protection” from an armed guard, while Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf noted that once again “dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way.”

Bob Jones, head of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office, said that worshippers “were brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith,” though he cautioned the shooter’s full motive was not yet known.

The social media site Gab.com said the alleged shooter had a profile on its website, which is popular with far-right extremists. The company said the account was verified after the shooting and matched the name of the gunman.

A man with the same name posted on Gab before the shooting that “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

HIAS is a nonprofit group that helps refugees around the world find safety and freedom. The organization says it is guided by Jewish values and history.

Bowers also recently posted a photo of a collection of three semi-automatic handguns he titled “my glock family,” a reference to the firearms manufacturer. He also posted photos of bullet holes in person-sized targets at a firing range, touting the “amazing trigger” on a handgun he was offering for sale.

The attack took place during a baby-naming ceremony, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. During a Jewish baby naming ceremony, the baby is given his or her Hebrew name. The name could be a name that sounds like the baby’s secular name or has significance in his or her family’s history.

Officials later said that no children were hurt.

“It is a very horrific crime scene. It’s one of the worst that I’ve seen and I’ve been on some plane crashes,” said a visibly moved Wendell Hissrich, the Pittsburgh public safety director.

The synagogue is located in the tree-lined residential neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and the hub of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, said the group believes it is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.

“Our hearts break for the families of those killed and injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and for the entire Jewish community of Pittsburgh,” Greenblatt said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “heartbroken and appalled” by the attack.

“The entire people of Israel grieve with the families of the dead,” Netanyahu said. “We stand together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh. We stand together with the American people in the face of this horrendous anti-Semitic brutality. And we all pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder called the shooting “an attack not just on the Jewish community, but on America as a whole.”

Trump called the shooting a “wicked act of mass murder” that “is pure evil, hard to believe and frankly something that is unimaginable.”

Trump has at times been accused by critics of failing to adequately condemn hate, such as when he blamed “both sides” for the violence at a Charlottesville white supremacist rally.

On Saturday, he said that anti-Semitism “must be confronted anywhere and everywhere it appears.”

The synagogue is a fortress-like concrete building, its facade punctuated by rows of swirling, modernistic stained-glass windows illustrating the story of creation, the acceptance of God’s law, the “life cycle” and “how human-beings should care for the earth and one another,” according to its website. Among its treasures is a “Holocaust Torah,” rescued from Czechoslovakia.

Its sanctuary can hold up to 1,250 people.

Michael Eisenberg, the immediate past president of the Tree of Life Synagogue, lives about a block from the building.

He was getting ready for services when he received a phone call from a member who works with Pittsburgh’s Emergency Services, saying he had been notified through scanner and other communications that there was an active shooter at their synagogue.

“I ran out of the house without changing and I saw the street blocked with police cars. It was a surreal scene. And someone yelled, ‘Get out of here.’ I realized it was a police officer along the side of the house. … I am sure I know all of the people, all of the fatalities. I am just waiting to see,” Eisenberg said.

He said officials at the synagogue had not gotten any threats that he knew of prior to the shooting. The synagogue maintenance employees had recently checked all of the emergency exits and doors to make sure they were cleared and working.

“I spoke to a maintenance person who was in the building and heard the shots. He was able to escape through one of the side exit doors we had made sure was functioning,” Eisenberg said.

Eisenberg said the larger main synagogue, Tree of Life, had let two other smaller congregations use space at the synagogue on Saturdays, and that all three were meeting at the time.

Jeff Finkelstein of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh said local synagogues have done “lots of training on things like active shooters, and we’ve looked at hardening facilities as much as possible.”

“This should not be happening, period,” he told reporters at the scene. “This should not be happening in a synagogue.”

Just three days before the shooting, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers posted a column on the congregation’s website, noting that people make time to attend funerals, but not for life’s happy occasions.

“There is a story told in the Talmud of a wedding procession and a funeral procession heading along parallel roads, with the roads intersecting,” Myers wrote on Wednesday. “The question asked is: when they meet at the fork, which procession goes first, funeral or wedding? The correct answer is wedding, as the joy of the couple takes precedence. In fact, the funeral procession is to move out of sight so that their joy is not lessened.”

Myers ended his column with words that now seem all too prescient.

“We value joy so much in Judaism that upon taking our leave from a funeral or a shiva house, the customary statement one makes (in Yiddish) is ‘nor oyf simches’ – only for s’machot,” Myers wrote. “While death is inevitable and a part of life, we still take our leave with the best possible blessing, to meet at joyous events. And so I say to you: nor oyf simches!”

(AP)




36 COMMENTS

  1. B’DE. For the past several years, I’ve always read about these tragic and horrific attacks and wondered why shuls and yiddeshe mosdos in the U.S. has been seemingly been spared from the worst of this carnage. There will be a time to discuss the political ramifications, how the current rhetorical climate has contributed to the radicalization of these white supremacist groups, whether armed guards at every location would have made a difference etc. Likewise, there hopefully will be no vile comments about this being a “conservative” shul, the Rav who was brought in by Trump to speak this afternoon at his rally in Indiana or any of the other usual sinas chinam we read after such tragedies. Lets just think about how we can give our children a sense of security when they go to school on Sunday AM and work within our local communities to protect our own facilities against such a tragedy.

  2. Yes, we are not immune. As the country becomes more violent, as more violence is tolerated, as guns become something one wears on a trip to the grocery store, it happens to us too.

    An armed guard would have prevented this? Get real. This Nazi shot three armed, trained police officers (the fourth was hit by “shrapnel”) and one lone guard would have stopped him? Assuming, of course, that he didn’t shoot the guard first. We’ve got to stop parroting what certain circles in the goyishe velt say and start thinking for ourselves. Nobody in the NRA has smichah, so why do we hold by them so faithfully? We can’t isnsulate ourselves, so we have to start joining the struggles against violence and hate.

  3. How come the media is ignoring the fact that this guy (in his web postings) used terminology similar to Farrakhan?. Perhaps even Farrakhan’s “termite” remark may have been the final triggers that set him off.

  4. Gadol, well said. This was tragic in all ways possible. Although the tragedy occurred in a conservative Temple, I’d be curious to know what and how the orthodox shuls in the neighborhood took it. I’d like to know what the various shuls in the neighborhood did during the morning shooting? Did they immediately stop davening/Kriyas Hatorah and tell everyone to evacuate to their homes? Did they lock down? Did they stop everything and start with tehillim? I don’t want HaShem to ever put me (or anyone else) in such a situation, but I don’t think I’d be able to continue regular teffilah or kriyas hatorah with a mass shooting a few blocks away, I’d start tehillim to myself.

  5. י”ח מרחשון is tragically a date earmarked for the most tragic shootings in the annals USA Jewish History. 28 years ago was the tragic assassination in Manhattan of the saintly Rav מאיר Kahane הי”ד and today came the tragic massacre in Squirrel Hill of 11 Jewish worshipers הי”ד @ a house of Jewish worship.

  6. Georgeg:
    If you look at his other rants, he was virulently anti=Black as well as anti-Semitic. The nonsense that he might have been triggered by Farrakhan or the Ayatolah is typical of the nutcases who are trying to ignore the “there were some good guys on BOTH sides” rhetoric (referring to the Nazis who paraded in the front of the shul in Charlottesville just about a year ago threatening yidden. Not that the left hasn’t also lowered the bar on political hate-speech but many of us feel a fish rots from the head.

  7. As one klal, and as an Orthodox Jew I am sick over this. Antisemitism doesn’t know denominations. BH, NO child was hurt. These poor families, a degenerate comes into a house of hashem and does this, they should execute this bag of human excrement! Yidden arm yourselves be ready to protect your family, do your hishtadlus. Moshiach, for the sake of Jews worldwide…come!!!

  8. TGI shebbes, i geuss you just arent on the right madreiga if yu wouldnt be able to continue davening. a yirei shamayim would know why (klappei shmaya) this ferocious murderer walked into a conservative temple and not a frum shul.

  9. May we all come together as one loving nation to do national teshuva in all levels of frumkeit from frum to Frei to chassidish etc….

    May all the neshamas have an aliya and may mashiach come very soon

  10. Not that the left hasn’t also lowered the bar on political hate-speech but many of us feel a fish rots from the head

    To transalate what katanhadorah is saying: many of us (Jewish democrats) feel a fish rots from the head (it’s all Trump’s fault but when Nobama was president it wasn’t his fault rather it was the nutcases/2nd amendment’s fault)

  11. Gadolhadorah you are stupid and pathetic woman who during this terrible times can not help herself but sniping and twisting Trump ‘s words about Charlottesville. You leftist Democrats have nothing to say about your deity Obama trying to help Iranians to nuke Israel? Your stupidity and hypocrisy is speaks for itself.

  12. You need hidden on the inside who are prepared. Mentally and otherwise. Being armed is only a small part of it. Mindset is more important. You can’t walk past a controlled access point and breathe a sigh of relief. The Seattle JCC attack told us controlled access is only a first step. Har Nof showed us if they are already in nd uncontested, it’s already too late. Yaakov aavinu had a multi-pronged plan. Every embassy has an “onion” of security layers. And we need those grants and plans and blocked doors. But at the core of it all is just us. And if our tactical mindset isnt on par with the intent of the bad guy, then we’ve lost. You don’t have to be a gun nut to know and live the OODA loop. Butif you are serious about protecting lives, that last A has to involved armed and able congregants.

  13. And most comments about how having more guns would prevent such tragedies originate in the “sechel-free” zones occupying the space between the ears of the relevant posters. Just about every public-safety official interviewed today said that having an armed off-duty policeman sitting in the lobby of this shul would NOT have prevented or lowered the casualty count of today’s attack. A gunmen who knows the building layout (as this guy did) and who probably had observed the perimeter and security arrangements would have walked in and taken out the security guard sitting in the atrium entrance before moving on. Four heavily armed police wearing flak jackets were seriously injured trying to take him out.

  14. You might be gadol be Torah, but I don’t think youre read up on active shooters, or how any major military or police organization wins the “game” in a tactical situation. You’re just wrong. Disrupting an attackers OODA loop is actually the exclusive, only, and singular way to stop someone who has the intiative with total surprise. A visible uniformed armed guard on the interior doesn’t do it. In that, you are right. That’s expected and thus not disruptive. I don’t know how else to say it, but you’re just wrong. You’re applying your “sechel” (some sechel) to a kind of situation that has been extensively studied and written about and executed properly many times over. This is not a “sechel” situation, this is a textbook situation that we know how to win.

  15. And I apologise if you were discussing preventing this attack. But there is no preventing attacks. If an attack is prevented at one institution, the attacker will go find a softer Target. We can only react.

  16. I could not believe what happened. I am very shocked and extremely sad, it was a nightmare or sadly happened! Please let us all start praying Tehillim for one another, please. It is emergency for us all. Any of us who believe in praying Tehillim May G-d’s protection for us all. May G-d bring consolation to the family member of the innocent of today. This should be the last tragedy that happened, if we all start praying Tehillim and calling to G-d, dear G-d please hear us and G-d have mercy upon us and save us all rescue us from our strong fierce enemies. Amen dear G-d we come to You hear us please help us. Amen shalom and consolation to the families and friends of today’s tragedy. May the souls of this extremely shocking tragedy be in peace. Dear G-d we just have You console us help us guide us what to do to be saved from enemies from every side.

  17. GH Is wrong
    on pretty much everything else ,even Possibly perverted.
    However on this he does have some valid points

    Give them consideration

  18. JNN, I can see you making excuses for the Nazis when they rounded up Jews to take to concentration camps.

    What right does anyone have to kill Jews anywhere?

    And what right do you have to call Israel’s fight for the survival and safety of Jews living there “antics”?

    And why do you think you have the right to excuse Jew hatred and violence against Jews?

  19. > ArmedJew

    > If an attack is prevented at one institution, the attacker will go find a softer Target. We can only react.

    And what if there is no “softer Target.” to be found (yes- that means all potential targets must be protected)? Then the attack does not happen at all – or if the attack happens, then the attacker is “taken down” before having a chance to hurt anyone else.

  20. daass torah – anti-Semites don’t care if your frum atheist or anywhere in between – if you’re Jewish its good enough for them. your ridiculous comment about this being a conservative shul is just ridiculous. The Har Nof massacre took place with frum yidden wearing talis and tefillin

  21. With all due respect…

    People frustrated with the “antics” of the State of Israel march in the streets, hand out leaflets, hold up traffic, make speeches through megaphones and picket the Embassy.
    They do not…
    – leave a trail of electronic hate on alt right websites
    – enter a House of Worship with guns in hand and homicidal thought
    – allegedly shout, “All Jews Must Die!!” as they fire their weapons again and again and again and again until 11 lie dying and countless others are injured
    – leave a trail of devastation and loss of history and wisdom so as to be immeasurable in it’s magnitude
    – cut to the core a community’s sense of place, and peace of mind

    It is what it is, an anti Semitic hate crime.

  22. The essence of the gun control argument is the insane belief that evil can be eradicated. It can’t.

    Attacks will always happen. If targets are all hardened, they will still happen, but the softest target will always take preference.

    But evil exists. Period. We need to prepare for it.

    The argument that if we Harden all Targets the attacks will cease is the same fallacy as if there were no guns there would be no attacks.

  23. Gadolhadorah seems to be almost the only one here who is operating in the reality zone. I was a police-trained civilian anti-terrorist guard in Israel during a time when there were numerous terror attacks. Engaging in a gunfight with an armed attacker is not something that Yossi Ploni can do without long-term training. There is a reason police have extended training for handling violent situations. The people walking around in Israel with guns have all done the army. Here, they’ve most likely been watching thriller-film videos.

    If you want an armed guard, HIRE someone with the professional training and background to really provide protection. Leave the baalebatim with good intentions and good imaginations to daven with kavana, something which is just as needed.

    Notice that the murderer had the ever-popular AK-47, and that he took out three professional police officers, two of them members of the SWAT team, before he was stopped. You cannot stop an AK-47 with a handgun, and if you have an AK-47, you have to keep it handy for surprise attacks. How are you going to do that in a place where there are children all over? That’s inviting a different kind of tragedy.

    This Marvel-comics type fantasizing isn’t going to do anything except make us feel less endangered without doing anything about the reality. And please, stop it with the ,”It was a Conservative synagogue.” That’s inviting an ayin hara. As it says in Avos, maybe HaShem ch’v will turn his eyes to us frumen and start measuring our own faults. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew.

    Note that there was, in all the tragedy, a bit of chasdei HaShem – there were no children in the building. Within an hour the children’s classes would have begun and we would be mourning even more bitterly.

  24. The anti gun environment in Israel is hardly the place to draw examples from for having prepared congregants as native first responders.

    Most Israelis that are allowed to carry a loaded gun and aren’t career active duty are comically undertrained in utilizing asidearm.

    The gun culture in our country means that even a minimally active gun enthusiast is probably more skilled in handgun implementation and better versed in the legal ramification of such.

    The amount of gunfighting skill needed to end an active shooter situation is minimal and only a small part of the resistors efforts. Mindset and coordination are far more important, as any professional with long-term training will tell you. That kind of training can be had quick and cheap, and the ones with the proper mindset are guaranteed to be the ones that you are mocking right now.

    And this perpetrator had an AR style rifle.

    Facts matter, not knowing them leads to uneducated drivel and in this case can lead to disaster.

    First disrupt the OODA loop. Then take charge of it. The battle is then already won and almost done. Ending the threat or holding it off long enough for LEOs to arrive is the SECOND or THIRD step in any plan, not the first.

    This is no place for armchair analysis.

    This is a life-and-death situation, and bad opinions presented as fact or “sechel” are totally uncalled for.

    If you have factual experience to add please do so.