“Tomorrow, the President and First Lady will travel to Pennsylvania to express the support of the American people and grieve with the Pittsburgh community,” said White House press spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
The White House defended President Trump from accusations by his political opponents that his rhetoric contributed to the environment that led to the massacre of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday.
“You can’t start putting the responsibility of the individuals on anybody but the individual who carries out the crime,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a press briefing Monday.
Sanders called anti-Semitism a “plague to humanity” and said the murders were “an act of hatred and above all an act of evil.”
Struggling to hold back tears, Sanders spoke of President Trump’s love for the Jewish people and for the Jewish members of his own family.
“The President cherishes the American Jewish community for everything t stands for and contributes to our country. He adores Jewish Americans as part of his own family. The President is the grandfather of several Jewish grandchildren. His daughter is a Jewish American, and his son-in-law is a descendant of Holocaust survivors.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday called the shooting that killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue an “attack on all people of faith”, saying targeting people because of their religion will not be tolerated.
His remarks, quoted by The Associated Press, came during a discussion in Boston on the importance of protecting religious freedom.
“This was not just an attack on the Jewish faith. It was an attack on all people of faith. It was an attack on America’s values of protecting those of faith,” Sessions said at the event hosted by the Boston chapter of the Federalist Society at the Omni Parker House.
The shooter, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, alluded to his impending attack in a social media post in which he declared he was “going in”.
“HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in,” Bowers wrote.
During the 20-minute shooting attack on the synagogue, which took place during a circumcision ceremony, Bowers fired on congregants and guests with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and three handguns. Thirteen people were shot inside the Tree of Life synagogue, 11 of them fatally.
Bowers reportedly made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting, and shouted that “All Jews must die”.
Federal prosecutors said Sunday they would be asking Sessions to give them the green light to pursue a death penalty case against Bowers.
One of the survivors of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre described the scene as he hid from the gunman’s rampage.
Barry Werber, a congregant at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, hid in a dark storage closet as white supremacist Robert Bowers opened fire during morning prayers on Saturday, murdering 11 people.
“Let me be very honest, I was frightened, I was scared, I have a wife at home ill, and I have a son living in Squirrel Hill, and I didn’t want to leave them,” Werber told the Pittburgh Post-Gazette.
Werber hid in the same location as Melvin Wax, 88, who was killed in the attack. They and several others were pushed into the closet by synagogue Rabbi Jonathan Pearlman to protect them from Bowers’ rampage.
Wax had been preparing to lead the services, as he often did at the synagogue.
Werber said the shooting started soon after the morning services began. “I’m just grateful we didn’t have more members there. We probably had a number of people on the way, but they hadn’t arrived yet.”
“Once the shooting started, we just wanted to stay alive,” he added.
He said that Wax was killed when he opened the closet door after the initial shooting stopped, and that’s when he was killed.
Werber further described how Bowers stepped over Wax’s body and then stepped out.
He credited the arrival of the police with saving his life and the lives of the other survivors.
The massacre was the deadliest anti-Semitic shooting in American history. (INN)
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