NEW YORK—-‘’We believe this is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States,’’ said Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt in a statement following the horrific anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that left at east eleven people dead on Saturday.
The shooter is 46-year-old Robert Bowers, who stormed the synagogue and began shooting. He was apprehended at the scene of the shooting . Police sources told the news outlet that when Bowers walked into the synagogue, he allegedly yelled, “All Jews must die.” Police found that he posted a lot anti-Jewish messages on social media. His social media profile has revealed him as a white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer.
In one post, Bowers claimed Jews were helping transport members of the migrant caravans. He believed that those in the migrant caravans were violent because they were attempting to leave countries that had high levels of violence. And Bowers repeatedly called them “invaders.”
Among the vitriolic statements is also criticism of President Donald Trump, in which Bowers suggested the President was surrounded by too many Jewish people.
“Trump is surrounded by k****”, “things will stay the course,” read one post.
Federal prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against Bowers, of Pittsburgh suburb of Baldwin, surrendered to authorities. He faces 29 charges.
“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. We are actively engaged with law enforcement to support their investigation and call on authorities to investigate this as a hate crime,’’ said Greenblatt.
He continued : ‘’It is simply unconscionable for Jews to be targeted during worship on a Sabbath morning, and unthinkable that it would happen in the United States of America in this day and age. Unfortunately, this violent occurs at time when ADL has reported a historic increase in both anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic online harassment. As we mourn those lost and search for answers, ADL will remain steadfast in its mission to fight anti-Semitism wherever and whenever it may occur.”
In its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, ADL found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose 57 percent in 2017 – the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking such data in 1979.
It found 1,986 cases of harassment, vandalism or physical assault against Jews and Jewish institutions last year.
The sharp rise was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.
The Pittsburgh Jewish community is in mourning after the shooting during a Brit Milah at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, a historic Jewish neighborhood in the area, as the synagogue was observing its weekly Shabbat services on Saturday.
“The community here is devastated and has historically been an extremely peaceful and warm place,” a Pittsburgh resident told Jewish News Service (JNS).
A number of figures and organizations, such as the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, issued statements condemning the violence and extending its sympathies to the victims and their families.
“The museum reminds all Americans of the dangers of unchecked hatred and anti-Semitism which must be confronted wherever they appear and calls on all Americans to actively work to promote social solidarity and respect the dignity of all individuals,” the Holocaust Museum said in a statement.
Jeff Finkelstein, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, said: “Today our city, which has ordinarily been among the most safe and secure in the nation, was rocked by horrible tragedy. My heart is broken, and I offer my condolences to the friends and family of those killed.”
“I hope and pray for healing for everyone affected and for all of us who are sickened by these recent events,” continued Finkelstein. “We are truly all family in the Pittsburgh Jewish community, so these deaths have affected me and all of us as would a death in the family.”
“Many synagogues share the sacred space where this tragedy occurred, including the combined Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation, a Conservative congregation, and Dor Hadash, a Reconstructionist congregation,” added Finkelstein. “An attack of any kind—and especially an attack on a place of worship—is despicable. Violence has no place in our society or in our community.”
Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, a progressive Jewish group, said: “We are overcome with grief and heartbreak at the unconscionable act of terror during morning prayers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh today.”
“We are sending our condolences, our love, our strength and our support to the victims, their families, the entire Pittsburgh Jewish community, and all who are in tears. May the memories of those murdered be a blessing.”
“No words are adequate,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “A demented, bigoted mind that would destroy lives in a house of worship should leave us all speechless, united and angry as hell.”
‘Another example of the danger of anti-Semitism’
In addition to giving condolences, Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, remarked that the shooting is a reminder of the hatred that persists against Jews.
“The American Jewish Congress strongly condemns the acts of terrorism and hate against our community,” said Rosen. “Attacking innocent civilians in their place of worship, when they are congregating to practice their faith, is a cowardly and dreadful crime of hate. During these terrible times, we stand even stronger against anti-Semitism, white supremacy and intimidation.”
“This horrific attack is yet another example of the danger of anti-Semitism. “This baseless hatred is the mother of the violence we saw today and have witnessed throughout Jewish history,” said David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, a pro-Israel campus group.
“We must have zero tolerance for anti-Semitic speech and anti-Semitic acts whether they target individual Jews or the Jewish state,” continued Brog. “We must respond to every anti-Semitic outburst in our communities and on our campuses as if lives are at stake. They clearly are.”
‘An assault on humanity’ says President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump also decried the hatred behind the shooting.
“This evil anti-Semitic attack is an assault on humanity,” tweeted the president. “It will take all of us working together to extract the poison of anti-Semitism from our world. We must unite to conquer hate.”
The president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who is Jewish, posted on Twitter: “America is stronger than the acts of a depraved bigot and anti-Semite. All good Americans stand with the Jewish people to oppose acts of terror & share the horror, disgust & outrage over the massacre in Pittsburgh. We must unite against hatred & evil.”
Christians United for Israel founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee gave his condolences to his Jewish brethren.
“Our Jewish brothers and sisters are hugging their children close in anguish as they try to grapple with this evil,” he said in a video. “Every Jewish mother and father in America faces the daunting task of telling their sons and daughters there are some in this country who want to kill them because they are Jewish. It is an unthinkable pain and an intolerable reality.”
Hagee added, “Now is the time to pray for our friends, to reach out personally with words of comfort and love, and to visibly stand with them against the anti-Semitic poison that fueled this attack.”
Lauder: ‘We must work together to ensure that our Jewish communities are secure and protected’
There was no security guard at the synagogue when the shooting occurred.
World Jewish Congress President (WJC) Ronald Lauder sounded the alarm on the very real threats facing Jewish communities worldwide and urged government authorities to ramp up security efforts to prevent such an attack from happening again.
“The horrific act of terror that took place on Saturday at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh has left all Jewish communities, both in the US and abroad, in a state of absolute shock. We have long warned about the sharp rise in antisemitism, on both the far-right and the far-left and have prayed that the many incidences that we have witnessed of late, of vandalism and desecration of property, would never end in loss of life.
“This Shabbat, our worst nightmares came true. Innocent people were killed and wounded for the simple crime of being Jewish. This was an attack specifically targeting the Jewish community, in a deliberate and callous manifestation of antisemitism and hatred, and it should serve as a wake-up call to all Americans that such horror can and has happened here. We must be vigilant in making sure that this never happens again.
“The Pittsburgh police department were quick to respond to this heinous attack, and for that we are grateful. It is imperative that the authorities across the US, and in every country that has a Jewish community, take every threat seriously, no matter how innocuous it might seem. It is the responsibility of governments and all official authorities to ensure that the Jewish communities, and their institutions, are secure and protected.
“The World Jewish Congress’ Security of Communities Department is actively working with national and local authorities in more than 50 countries to help to provide some of our communities with the proper infrastructure and crisis management tools to defend themselves against any threat. We will continue to do so with vigor, and we stand ready to assist in every way possible.
“Each and every one of us, from average citizen to government official, has the moral obligation to stand up and strongly condemn every form of antisemitism or xenophobia as it rears its head. We cannot allow ourselves to become desensitized to the very real dangers that can unfold. Vandalism, hate speech, and other demonstrations of the kind must not be ignored or downplayed. We must be united in unequivocal denunciation and clear in our message that we will not let terror win.”
Simon Wiesenthal Center calls for ’emergency’ meeting of religious leaders
The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center called on President Trump to “immediately convene an emergency meeting of religious leaders to help stop the slide to extremism in American Society.”
The group’s Dean and Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Abraham Cooper said in a statement, “We are sickened by this horrific attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s historic Jewish neighborhood. … Americans need and want leadership from both sides of the political aisle to stop the continuous slide to the brink.”
In a statement on its website, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) said it “was heartbroken and outraged by the antisemitic attack in Pittsburgh.”
The Republican Jewish Committee (RJC) condemned what it called a “senseless act of antisemitic violence.”
“There is no place in our society for violence against innocent people, especially violence motivated by race, religion, or sex,” RJC Chairman Norm Coleman declared in a statement. “The level of hate in this country is out of control. Today we mourn the dead and stand in awe of the men and women who ran toward the gun fire to help the victims and stop the perpetrator. In the days ahead, we all must come together to combat this epidemic of hate. From the left, the right, and all other corners of our political spectrum, we must come together to find a better path forward.”
The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) said in a statement, “The targeting of innocent victims in any place of worship is utterly unconscionable, and it is clear that congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue were targeted simply because they were Jews…The Jewish Democratic Council of America is more determined than ever to not let acts of anti-Semitism and terror threaten our democracy, and to end the scourge of gun violence that has plagued our country. No religious or minority group should live in fear, and it is incumbent on President Trump to ensure a culture of tolerance in our country.”
Joshua Block — CEO of The Israel Project, a Washington, DC-based advocacy organization — said that the attack was a reminder that antisemitism in the United States can no longer be ignored.
“Today is a very sad day for all of America,” Block said. “Fighting antisemitism is not the responsibility of the Jewish community alone. Fighting antisemitism is a responsibility for society at large.”
B’nai B’rith International (BBI) spoke of its horror at “the murders of worshippers this morning at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.”
“This mass murder is a reminder that anti-Semitism is on the rise in America at a rate unprecedented in decades. This vicious hate crime, perpetrated against innocent people at prayer is but the latest in an escalating scourge of hate-based violence in America,” it said in a statement.
The Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America issued a joint statement expressing sympathy for the victims of the attack.
“This senseless act of anti-Semitic violence was not only an egregious attack on the Jewish community, but an attack on the very foundations of civil society and our collective democratic values,” the Orthodox Union’s Executive Vice President said.
The Rabbinical Assembly, which represents Conservative movement/Masorti rabbis around the world, said : ‘’One of the most important lessons that the Jewish people can teach the world is that an act of hate against one community is an act of hate against us all. This mass murder is a reminder that anti-Semitism is on the rise in America at a rate unprecedented in decades. This vicious hate crime, perpetrated against innocent people at prayer is but the latest in an escalating scourge of hate-based violence in America.’’
‘’This hatred becomes exponentially more lethal when combined with the epidemic of gun violence that continues to terrorize our nation. Mass shootings have become a far too common occurrence in the United States. Calls for extra security can only accomplish so much when so little is being done to screen gun purchasers and limit the lethality of weapons for sale,’’ the organization added.