Religious Leaders Respond to Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting


The 46-year-old suspect stormed the synagogue armed with 4 guns.

A gunman shouting anti-Semitic slurs killed 11 congregation members and wounded four police officers and two others inside a Pittsburgh synagogue on October 27, Saturday morning. He was armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle and three handguns. The rampage in Tree of Life Congregation is “described as among the deadliest against the Jewish community in the United States,” according to the New York Times.

Religious Leaders Respond to Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting[/tweetthis]

The gunman has been identified as Robert D. Bowers. He exchanged gunshots with police officers before going back inside the synagogue and barricading himself inside a third-floor room, eventually surrendering. He was charged with 29 criminal counts, including a hate crime (obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs), using a firearm to commit murder, 11 counts of criminal homicide, 6 counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation. It was found that Bowers had 21 registered guns. He was also discovered to be expressing his hatred on Gab, an extremist-friendly site, before the incident.

Trump condemned the hate crime in a response to reporters Saturday before flying to a campaign event in Indiana. “It is a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country, frankly, and all over the world. And something has to be done. This is a case where if they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately. Isn’t it a shame that we even have to think of that inside a temple, or inside of a church, but certainly, the results might have been far better.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke about the recent rise of anti-Semitism. In 2017, he said, “we saw a 57 percent surge of acts of harassment, vandalism and violence directed at the Jewish community across the country. It was the single-largest spike we’ve ever seen.” A Sunday interfaith service at Emanu-El included Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and nonbelievers coming together in unity and empathy after the shooting.

Former president Barack Obama expressed grief. “We grieve for the Americans murdered in Pittsburgh. All of us have to fight the rise of anti-Semitism and hateful rhetoric against those who look, love, or pray differently. And we have to stop making it so easy for those who want to harm the innocent to get their hands on a gun.” 

On Sunday, Pope Francis called the shooting an “inhuman act of violence” and prayed for those affected. He asked God “to help us to extinguish the flames of hatred that develop in our societies, reinforcing the sense of humanity, respect for life and civil and moral values.”

Some responses of local religious leaders include Pastor Brandon Capuano. "My heart breaks for the Jewish community and really, there's no reason any man, woman, child should feel threatened in their house of worship," Capuano said.

The Jewish Community center stated: "We stand in solidarity with these and other victims of such violent acts of hate and resolve to do what we can to bring an end to anti-Semitism and heinous crimes against humanity."

Jewish Women International (JWI) says they are “absolutely heartbroken by the mass murder this weekend” and “the American values of diversity, strength, and inclusion are under attack.” The organization is urging people to vote in the November 6 elections for politicians who stand for “commonsense gun violence prevention and initiatives that work to end hate and violence.”

Catholic Priest Monsingor Michael Kuse expressed shock. “It’s a lack of respect and I do think that whoever or wherever it is coming from, we are instilling a fear in everyone,” Kuse said. “When we are in fear of our neighbors, family, co-workers, that is not healthy. It is not healthy for our country, it’s not healthy for neighborhoods and I just hope that somewhere, people can settle down and say, do I really love people.”

Connie Ryan, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa made the following statement: “For the second time in a month I am releasing a statement regarding hate and anti-Semitism, this one at the farthest end of the spectrum of extremism, hate, and violence, A man filled with hate and rage walked into a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with the sole purpose of killing Jews; innocent people peacefully worshiping. People practicing their faith in a country that demands the ability of all people to choose their own beliefs; people who were not safe in their own sanctuary.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement on Monday, declaring in part, “We condemn the environment of hate-filled rhetoric that has become so prevalent. Anti-Semitism has no place in our society.”

The Church of Scientology and Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination (STAND) both issued statements via Twitter expressing sympathy and solidarity with the Jewish community.

The Muslim community has raised over $180,000 so far for the Pittsburgh shooting victims.

Vigils were held in the U.S., Israel, and Canada on Saturday and Sunday.

The suspect appeared in court for the first time Monday. Prosecutors are determined to pursue the death penalty.


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