pittsburgh synagogue shooting
February 11, 2019

Robert Bowers, the man prosecutors say carried out the mass shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue that left 11 people dead in October, has pleaded not guilty to 19 new charges.

Bowers in November had already pleaded not guilty to 44 counts in connection with the shooting, which also wounded seven people, per BBC News. But in January, a federal grand jury indicted Bowers on additional counts, which included 11 hate crime charges, as reported by The Daily Beast. Bowers pleaded not guilty to these charges Monday.

During the shooting, which has been described as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, Bowers allegedly yelled at police that he wanted "all Jews to die," ABC News reports. The shooting was carried out during Shabbat services at the synagogue.

USA Today writes that federal prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will seek the death penalty for Bowers. But Bowers' attorney, Judy Clarke, said she wanted the case to not go to trial, suggesting a plea deal might be possible, The Associated Press reports. Brendan Morrow

October 29, 2018

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 2,000 people gathered in Pittsburgh's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall on Sunday night, and many more gathered outside, for an emotional interfaith ceremony to commemorate the 11 people killed and six injured in Saturday's mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. Three Jewish congregations use the synagogue, and the rabbis of each congregation spoke, as did Christian, Muslim, and civic leaders.

"We lost 11 of our neighbors, and we are here to mourn the way they were taken from us," said Mayor Bill Peduto. "We are here for you, because we're Pittsburghers. And that's what we do." He called Saturday the "darkest day of Pittsburgh's history" and vowed to "eradicate any type of hate" from Pittsburgh.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, whose congregation lost seven members in the mass murder, said "my holy place has been defiled." Pointing to the 23rd Psalm — "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want." — he said, "Well God, I want!" but "what I want you can't give me. You can't return these 11 beautiful souls. You can't rewind the clock." He vowed to rebuild, and pointing to another psalm and the outpouring of support, added: "My cup overflows with love. That's how you defeat hate." Rabbi Cheryl Klein of Dor Hadash remembered slain congregant Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who died "on his way to be of help to others."

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman of New Light Congregation lamented the three "pillars" of his congregation who were murdered. "These three men — they cannot be replaced. But we will not be broken. We will not be ruined by this event."

The Anti-Defamation League says Saturday's massacre was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, but the latest incident in an upsurge of anti-Semitic attacks. Earlier this year, the ADL reported a 60 percent jump in anti-Semitic incidents last year, the single largest single-year rise in the three decades the organization has been tracking such activity. Peter Weber

October 29, 2018

Judah Samet, 80, knew virtually all of the 11 people murdered Saturday morning at his Pittsburgh synagogue, Tree of Life, and had known most of them for years or decades. But because he was four minutes late arriving to 9:45 a.m. services on Saturday, he was not among the dead. When he pulled into a handicapped spot at 9:49, "somebody knocked on my window," Samet told Forward on Sunday. "There was this guy. Very calm and respectful. [He] told me, you better back up, there is an active shooting going on in your synagogue."

"It took Samet 60 seconds to process what the man was saying," Forward reports. "Samet was born in Hungary. He turned 8 years old at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. He spent five and a half years in an orphanage in Israel. He has been a member of Tree of Life Congregation for 55 years." He watched a police officer about four feet away from him exchange fire with the suspected murderer, Robert Bowers. "My God, my story doesn't end," he told Forward.

One of the victims, Rose Mallinger, and her daughter "sit behind me," Samet said. "If I was inside the synagogue, I would be in the line of fire." But "more than anything on Sunday, Samet seemed to be going back in his mind to the 1940s, when the Nazis tortured and murdered his family," Forward recounts. "The Nazis put Samet's family on a train to Auschwitz, but Slovakian partisans blew up the railroad line." His father died of typhoid shortly after World War II. You can read more about Samet's story and some of his friends who did not survive on Saturday at Forward. Peter Weber

October 29, 2018

President Trump responded to the murder of 11 Jewish congregants in Pittsburgh on Saturday with a forceful condemnation of the "evil anti-Semitic attack" and "the scourge of anti-Semitism." Those solemn remarks — sandwiched in between a suggestion that the Tree of Life synagogue should've had "protection" and a joke about his "bad hair day" — followed "the importuning of his Jewish daughter and son-in-law to craft a powerful statement of outrage at anti-Semitism," The New York Times reports.

After reading the statement, Trump immediately "went back into partisan mode, assailing his enemies," and "by the evening's end he was tweeting about baseball," the Times reports, continuing:

The president has made clear he does not see national harmony as his mission. ... He reads the dutiful words of unity and grief and determination that aides put in front of him, but he refuses to stick to the script. ... Inside the White House, advisers veer between resolve, resignation, and resentment. ... Sometimes they take it upon themselves to do what he will not. Two White House officials, Jason Greenblatt and Avi Berkowitz, traveled to Pittsburgh on Saturday a few hours after the shooting, and were still there on Sunday. Urged on by his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, the president made plans to travel to Pittsburgh this week. [The New York Times]

The White House is right that the accused Pittsburgh synagogue shooter and the "far-right faction with which [he] identifies does oppose Trump as a pro-Jewish sellout, citing such betrayals as his support for Israel and the marriage of his daughter to a Jewish man," Jonathan Chait says at New York, but the shooter "does identify with some of Trump's goals and rhetoric, because Trump has inspired the racist far right to a degree surpassing any modern American president." You can read more about Trump's shooting response and long, complicated "relationship with Judaism" at The New York Times. Peter Weber

October 28, 2018

On Saturday, a 46-year-old gunman with three pistols, an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, and a history of virulently anti-Semitic posts on social media murdered 11 Jewish congregants at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, telling police after he was wounded, "I just want to kill Jews," according to a criminal complaint released Sunday.

Later on Sunday, the National Rifle Association posted a get-out-the-vote message targeting former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, and the Democratic leaders of Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.). Schumer and Bloomberg are Jewish (Pelosi is Catholic); Bloomberg, while not a candidate for any office this year, is a prominent proponent of tougher gun laws.

"You don't want the Bloomberg/Schumer/Pelosi extreme gun control agenda in charge of the fate of your right to self-defense," the NRA tweeted Sunday night. "It is critical to get out and #vote — encourage your family, friends, and community to vote too. Every single vote counts." It is possible the tweet was scheduled before the shooting. When House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned about Tom Steyer, Bloomberg, and a third Jewish Democratic donor, George Soros, last week, he deleted the tweet the next day. Peter Weber

October 28, 2018

Whether to welcome President Trump at the funeral ceremonies for the 11 people killed in Saturday's shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue is a choice for the loved ones of those who died, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (D) said Sunday.

"That's really up to the families themselves," Peduto told NBC's Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. "You know, this is a conservative synagogue. So, the funerals will [happen] very quickly — as soon as tomorrow. So that's really up to the families and whether they would want the president to be here."

Trump has expressed interest in attending, but Judaism requires a quick burial, usually within 24 to 48 hours of death. Watch the full interview. Bonnie Kristian

October 28, 2018

Authorities on Sunday released the names of the 11 people killed in the shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday.

They are Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Rose Mallinger, 97; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Cecil Rosenthal, 59; David Rosenthal, 54; Bernice Simon, 84; Sylvan Simon, 86; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; and Irving Younger, 69. The Rosenthals were brothers, and the Simons were married.

"To the victims' families, to the victims' friends, we are here for you as a community of one," said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (D) Sunday. "We will be here to help you through this horrific episode. We'll get through this darkest day in Pittsburgh's history." Bonnie Kristian

October 28, 2018

Robert Bowers, the man arrested under accusation of killing 11 people and wounding six more in Saturday's shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue, now faces 29 federal charges.

Among them are 11 counts of obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death. An account on the social media site Gab believed to belong to Bowers is rife with anti-Semitic content, and he reportedly told arresting officers he attacked because "all Jews must die."

The Anti-Defamation League said the shooting is "likely the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States." Prosecutors have pledged "swift" and "severe" justice.

"When you spew hate speech, people act on it. Very simple," said Stephen Cohen of New Light Congregation, which rents building space from Tree of Life. "And this is the result. A lot of people dead. Senselessly." Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads