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Trump Honors Victims of Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre; Seeks to Heal Rifts

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President Trump and the First Lady arrived at Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh; the scene of Saturday’s grizzly shooting late on Tuesday afternoon. CNN reported that they entered the vestibule of the building and lit a candle with the rabbis and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer for the 11 victims of what is now being called the “Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.” Photo Credit: Sarah Sanders Twitter Page

Photos of all 11 victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner accompanied President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, in visiting Pittsburgh on Tuesday in the wake of the synagogue shooting that killed 11 worshippers, according to an Israel National News report.

The addition of the President’s Jewish daughter and son-in-law to the entourage was reported this morning.

They were joined as well by White House advisor and Mideast peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt and Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin, who is also Jewish.

Avi Berkowitz, assistant to the President, already is on the ground in Pittsburgh, according to INN.

Trump spent about three hours in the city. Air Force One landed in Pittsburgh at approximately 3:45 p.m.

Trump and the First Lady arrived at Tree of Life Synagogue; the scene of Saturday’s mass shooting late on Tuesday afternoon.

Hundreds of students with different religious faiths came together the mourn the loss of 11 lives in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Photo Credit: Colin Boyle / The Daily Northwestern

CNN reported that they entered the vestibule of the building because the synagogue is still a crime scene, according to pool reports. They then lit a candle with the rabbis and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer for the 11 victims of what is now being called the “Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.”

They then walked outside and placed stones from the White House, a traditional custom in Judaism, and white roses at each of the stars for the victims. A rabbi accompanied them and led them in a prayer.

The Jerusalem Post reported that protesters singing Jewish prayers were gathered to display their opposition to Trump’s trip to the Keystone state. They were demanding that Trump condemn white nationalists and racial supremacists.

The gathering was organized by a local chapter of Bend the Arc, a vehemently left-wing Jewish organization.

The JPost reported that their protestations could be heard inside the synagogue as the president was there, according to one pool reporter with him on the scene.

According to the local CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, another protest began at 3 pm and has billed itself as the “No Antisemitism, No White Supremacy, No Trump” rally.

It is organized by “IfNotNow Pittsburgh”, which worked with 13 other organizations to put together the event, according to the CBS affiliate.

After they departed the scene of the shooting, Trump and his entourage visited the wounded police officers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. According to White House pool reports that met with medical staff and the wounded officers who include, officer Tim Matson, who remains in intensive care, officer Daniel Mead, who has been discharged, officer Anthony Burke, who has been discharged and officer Tyler Paschel, who was wounded.

Earlier on Tuesday White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “The President and first lady are traveling to Pittsburgh today to show their respect, honor the lives of those lost and offer prayers and condolences to a grieving community.”

She added: “The horrific tragedy in Pittsburgh is not a political event and out of respect, the President extended a bipartisan invitation to congressional leadership to travel with him to Pennsylvania. Understandably, the members had prior commitments or wanted to show their respect in a private way.”

“The President cherishes the American-Jewish community for everything it stands for and contributes to our country,” she said. “He adores Jewish Americans as part of his own family. The President is the grandfather of several Jewish children. His daughter is a Jewish American and his son-in-law is a descendant of Holocaust survivors.”

Donald Trump Condemns ‘Vile Hate-Filled Anti-Semitism’ After Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting during a campaign stop

In an interview on Monday night with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, Trump echoed that “I’m just going to pay my respects. I’m also going to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt. And I really look forward to going. I would have done it even sooner but I didn’t want to disrupt even more than they have disruption.”

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California; Senate Minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York; Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky; and House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan, R. Wisconsin, all declined invitations to join the president in Pittsburgh, CNN reported.

According to the CNN report, Pennsylvania’s two US senators did not join Trump in Pittsburgh. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, was invited to join the President but declined, according to a spokesman, citing previous commitments in another part of the state. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey was not invited by the White House, according to his communications director. Casey will attend a vigil for the victims in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The report also said that Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto will not appear with Trump, citing his Spokesman. Peduto told CNN in an interview yesterday that he advised Trump’s aides that a visit today was too early.

“Mayor Peduto’s sole focus today is on the funerals and supporting the families,” Tim McNulty, Peduto’s communications director, told CNN Tuesday.

Pittsburgh County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also said he would not meet with Trump in order to focus on the community. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, also was invited to join Trump but is scheduled to be in another part of the state on Tuesday.

Jeffrey Myers, leader of the Tree of Life Congregation, told CNN on Monday that Trump is “always welcome.”

“I’m a citizen. He’s my president. He’s certainly welcome,” Myers said.

The visit comes on the same day as the first victims’ funerals.

Two officers remain hospitalized Tuesday, said Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert.

“We are hoping one of them will be released either tonight or tomorrow. Things keep changing on that.  The other one, he still has surgeries to go. Their spirits are good. We are very thankful all four of them are still with us. They still have a long road ahead recovering from their wounds, but we’re going to be here for them and the community is going to be here for them,” the chief said.

According to an AP report, Pennsylvania is deferring at this time to federal authorities on the prosecution of the suspected Pittsburgh synagogue gunman.

District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. had asked the U.S. Marshals Service Tuesday to relinquish custody of Robert Bowers so he could be arraigned on state charges filed last Saturday. But the request was denied.

Zappala says it is “prudent” to let Bowers be prosecuted “at the federal level at this time.”

Federal prosecutors are seeking approval from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to pursue the death penalty. Bowers did not enter a plea in court Monday.

Services for brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal took place at 10 a.m on Tuesday and the funeral for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz was set for 11 a.m.

CNN reported that about 100 members of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization attended the brothers’ funeral service. The brothers’ sister, Michelle Rosenthal, was a former community relations manager for the Steelers organization.

The victims included the following members of the Eitz Chaim synagogue in Squirrel Hill:

  • Melvin Wax, 88: His sister, Bonnie Wax, told CNN affiliate WTAE that he was a wonderful person, “always in a good mood, always full of jokes.”
  • Irving Younger, 69: The charismatic 69-year-old was a greeter at Tree of Life synagogue, which he had been frequenting for at least 10 years, said his pal and former Tree of Life president Barton Schachter.
  • Jerry Rabinowitz, 66: He came from Edgewood Borough, Pennsylvania, and was a primary care physician in the area for many years.
  • Rose Mallinger, 97: She was the “sweetest, lovely lady,” said Robin Friedman, who added that Mallinger was a secretary in her school’s office growing up.
  • Daniel Stein, 71: The retired resident of Squirrel Hill was “a great guy” loved by everyone, said his nephew.
  • Joyce Fienberg, 75: She was a former research specialist at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Richard Gottfried, 65: He opened a dental practice together with his wife, Peg Durachko, in 1984.
  • Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86: The couple, died together in the same synagogue where they wed more than 60 years ago.
  • Cecil and David Rosenthal, 59 and 54: The brothers were familiar faces at Tree of Life. They always sat in the back of the temple and greeted people as they came in to worship and passed out books, said Suzan Hauptman, who grew up at the synagogue.

Also on Tuesday, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is currently in the United States following of the shooting incident in the Pittsburgh Jewish community, appeared in an interview with Fox News in which he came out strongly in support of President Trump in the wake of the massacre. Minister Bennett was responding to assertions from the political left that President Trump had fostered a climate of hate and division which was ripe for anti-Semitic rhetoric.

“We all have to speak out whenever anyone talks antisemitism, whether it be Louis Farrakhan or David Duke,” said Bennett. “President Trump has been extremely supportive of the State of Israel, moved the embassy to Jerusalem, has recognized Jerusalem as out capital, and has been a big friend of the Jewish people,” he added.

“This is not a partisan issue, this has got to be bi-partisan”. “The President and across the isle; everyone has to get up and speak up against antisemitism”.

On Monday, Bennett took part in morning prayers at the Hillel School in Pittsburgh.

Bennett was honored with an “aliyah” to make the blessing before the Torah reading, and also blessed the Jewish students and communities.

The minister spoke with the students and encouraged them in light of the disaster that struck the community. “Since I arrived yesterday, I have met hundreds of people. The strength, the spirit and the brotherhood of your community are extraordinary. The despicable murderer wanted to harm just that – the strength of your community and of the entire Jewish people.”

“You are the future generation of the Jewish people, you must look at the hatred towards us and know that only light will expel the darkness. Only love will defeat the abysmal hatred, and together we will overcome. I am here for you in the name of the state of Israel as a whole. The Israeli public followed the reports worriedly, children in Israel prepared signs of support for you in schools, the entire nation is behind you. One people – one heart,” he said.

The minister’s office said that the students shared with the minister their feelings after the disaster, related their shock over the situation and thanked him for his arrival in the community. In addition, they asked the minister about life in Israel and told him about their experiences during visits to Israel.

On Sunday, INN reported that Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer said in an interview with Fox News that Trump was not responsible for causing a vitriolic Jew hater like Robert Bowers to commit the heinous attack that claimed the lives of 11 Jewish worshippers at the Squirrel Hill synagogue.

INN reported that the Ambassador’s initial reaction was that people should study history; “Antisemitism did not begin in 2016. It’s been going on for many centuries.” Dermer also pointed out that in 2015 and 2014, before Trump was elected, half of religious hate crimes targeted Jews.

On Monday, it was reported that members of the Israeli Trauma Coalition delegation had arrived at the scene of the Pittsburgh massacre.

The delegation includes the best experts in Israel with international experience in two main areas. The first is therapeutic: Specialization in treating mental trauma, grief, and anxiety. They accompany families as professional teams assisting the populace. Second, an organizational community track is deployed specializing in helping a community that has experienced a crisis.

During the years of the Coalition’s operation, the organization has extended aid in a number of emergency incidents in the world in general and in the United States in particular: The massacres in Parkland, Boston, and Houston. From Saturday, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Jewish Agency, and the Consulate General in New York began an operation to assist the victims, for security forces who were present in the arena, and for the Jewish community in the field of psychotherapy.

Israel Trauma Coalition and aid delegation director Talia Levanon said: “In Israel, unique knowledge has been accumulated written in blood. As Israelis, we see an obligation to share this knowledge with communities in crisis all over the world, and even more so with our brethren in the Jewish communities of North America who have stood by us throughout the years since the coalition was formed in 2001. If we can return a little of what we received – that is our duty.”

Consul General in New York Dani Dayan added: “The Jewish community in Pittsburgh is hurting and broken. Even after three days in the arena, it’s difficult for me and others to digest the magnitude of the disaster. It’ll take a long time to heal the broken pieces but we must maintain our strength as one united community. I’m full of hope that the arrival of this unique delegation will be of some modest help in this endeavor. The State of Israel stands by you and will continue to assist the victims of the terrible massacre, the security forces, their families, and the entire Jewish community in Pittsburgh.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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