11 Killed in Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting; Gunman Yelled 'All Jews Must Die'

Shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue takes place during Shabbat service ■ Shooter in custody, identified as far-right white supremacist ■ Three cops shot ■ Trump: Attack could have been avoided 'if they had protection'

A SWAT team arrives at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, October 27, 2018.
Gene J. Puskar,AP

At least 11 people were killed after a man opened fire on a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday.

The perpetrator entered the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue and yelled 'All Jews must die,' according to KDKA, a local radio station.

Twenty-nine charges were filed against the suspected gunman, including using a firearm to commit murders. Scott W. Brady, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania announced the charges late Saturday.

>> Read more: White supremacist who hated Jewish 'infestation': What we know about the Pittsburgh synagogue shooterRabbi of neighboring synagogue in Pittsburgh recounts moments of trauma after attack ■ As anti-Semitic acts surge, U.S. Jewish groups take security into their own hands

Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old white male who expressed far-right and white supremacist views on his social media accounts, was arrested over the attack and was reportedly hospitalized in fair condition with gunshot wounds. Eyewitness reports said he was heavily armed. 

Two hours before the attack, an account on the social network Gab under Bowers' name posted an attack on HIAS, a Jewish-American organization that helps refugees in the U.S. and around the world.

Posts by Robert Bowers, the man charged with killing 11 people in an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue

Bowers wrote: “HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

Speaking about the shooting, Trump told reporters who accompanied him on the way to a political event that the attack could have been avoided if the synagogue had armed guards present.

"If they had protection, the result would have been far better," Trump said after being asked by a reporter if he thinks the synagogue should have had an armed guard.

He later wrote on Twitter: "This evil Anti-Semitic attack is an assault on humanity. It will take all of us working together to extract the poison of Anti-Semitism from our world. We must unite to conquer hate."

First Lady Melania Trump also tweeted in response to the incident. "My heart breaks over the news out of Pittsburgh. The violence needs to stop." 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attack, writing on Twitter: "I condemn the terror attack against a Pittsburgh synagogue and extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and to the American people. Turkey unequivocally condemns all forms of terrorism in all parts of the world regardless of their targets." 

Israel stands with Pittsburgh in face of 'anti-Semitic brutality'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayahau also commented on the shooting. In a video statement issued on Saturday evening, the premier can be heard saying: "I was heartbroken and appalled by the murderous attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue today. The entire people of Israel grieve with the families of the dead."

Netanyahu said Israel "stands together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh. We stand together with the American people in the face of this horrendous anti-Semitic brutality, and we all pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded."

U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, expressed his condolences on Twitter: "Today the residents of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill community are in mourning in the aftermath of a terrorist shooting attack shattering Tree of Life synagogue’s Shabbat services. We are heartbroken and pray for the victims and their families, including the brave police."

The European Union condemned the attack in a statement, saying it "shows the magnitude of a wave of antisemitism and racism that is spreading in many countries."

The statement expressed solidarity with the community of the synagogue of Pittsburgh and with "all the Jewish communities around the world in this moment. The EU reaffirms its strong condemnation for anti-semitism as well as for any incitement to hatred and violence. We have experienced on our continent the devastating and unforgivable consequences of antisemitism and hatred that can never be forgotten."

Pittsburgh city firefighters cordon off an area a block away from the Tree of Life synagogue where a man opened fire on October 27, 2018, killing eight people.
AFP

The statement concluded with a promise to protect "the fundamental right of belief, wherever it’s questioned or attacked."

Michael Eisenberg, the immediate past president of the synagogue, said in an interview with KDKA that "like most religious institutions, we have an open door ... On a day like today, the door is open, it's a religious service, you can walk in freely, only on the High Holidays is there a security person at the door."

Eisenberg said he had been heading to the synagogue when the shooting began, and the police on the scene told him to leave. 

Eisenberg said that the synagogue leaders had undergone training and preparation for active shooter situations, though he said that the synagogue had never received any threats of violence.

He said he had spoken to the synagogue's maintenance man, who was in the bathroom during the shooting, and had escaped through exit doors, which had been purposely made easier to exit in order to prepare for such a situation. The doors were adjusted on the advice of Homeland Security experts who had briefed synagogue leaders on ways to prepare for security threats. That advice, and the adjustments to the doors, he said, may have saved lives by allowing congregants to escape.

SWAT police officers respond after a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 27, 2018.
\ JOHN ALTDORFER/ REUTERS

"Moving forward, we need to learn from this. You want to be pro-active ... this will be a catalyst for more security in the future in many religious institutions," Eisenberg said, adding emotionally, "I know everyone in the building. I almost don't want to know, but I am going to have to know" what occurred inside.

In Israel, President Reuven Rivlin also extended his condolences to members of the Jewish community, saying: "Our prayers and deepest concerns are focused on what is happening in Pittsburgh, Pennsilvaniya. Our hearts and thoughts are with the families of those who were slain and we are praying for the speedy recovery of the injured. I am certain that security forces and U.S. law enforcement will investigate the appalling incident thoroughly and bring the murderer to justice."

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog echoed such sentiments in his own statement: "Horrible shooting during Shabbat Service at Congregation Etz Chaim in Pittsburgh. We at the Jewish Agency are in pain and mourning with the Pittsburgh Jewish community, and will assist in any possible way. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."

Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett departed for Pittsburgh hours after the attack took place. He is slated to visit the scene of the attack, meet the local community and participate in the funerals of those killed.

"The State of Israel and the Israeli Government are shocked and pained to receive the reports of the terrible attack on the Jewish community in Pittsburgh," Bennett said in a statement before departing.

“We are following the news with concern, and I have instructed the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs to prepare to assist the community in every possible way. Our hearts go out to the families of those killed and injured. May the memory of the murdered be blessed," his statement read

Yizhar Hess, executive director of the Conservative movement in Israel, spoke about the loss the community suffered, “It is a tough evening, and to all those who accuse us of not being Jews or not being Jewish enough, here is yet another proof, written in blood," Hess said.

The Consulate General of Israel in New York, which is also responsible for Pennsylvania, wrote that it "stands in solidarity and heavy mourning with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh for the terrible murder of Jewish worshipers this morning."

Consul General of Israel in New York, Dani Dayan, also released a statement. "Today, murderous anti-Semitism has reached our borders, and the State of Israel stands with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, shoulder to shoulder."

American-Palestinian Women's March leader Linda Sarsour wrote on Facebook: "This is absolutely devastating and so scary. Sending love to our Jewish family. We promise to stand in solidarity with you. We are in this together. We have to be."

Pittsburgh's Tree of Life congregation, affiliated with the Conservative movement, is a historic one, dating back to 1864.

Originally, it was located a building downtown that now serves as Pittsburgh’s Performing Arts Center in the Oakland neighborhood.

The synagogue building in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where the shooting took place was built on donated land in 1946, after much of the Jewish community had moved into the neighberhood. The cornerstone of the building was made with limestone from Palestine.

In 2010, the congregation merged with another Conservative congregation, Or L’Simcha. The name of the merged community is Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha. In addition to the main congregation, a Reconstructionist congregation, Dor Hadash, also holds religious services there.