WASHINGTON – The White House announced on Monday that a Holocaust survivor who also survived the terror attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, will be among the guests of President Donald Trump at his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
According to a press release, Judah Samet will attend the ceremony, and so will Timothy Matson, a Pittsburgh police officer who broke into the synagogue during the shooting in October, was wounded and helped save the lives of some of those present at the synagogue.
Samet, according to the White House, survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel, where he lived in 1948, when the State of Israel was declared. He then served in the Israel Defense Forces' Paratroopers Brigade, before immigrating in 1960 to the United States.
11 Jewish worshippers were killed in the October 27 attack. Gunman Robert Bowers was charged with 29 counts including 11 counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, as well as 11 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence. Last week, 19 hate-crime and firearms charges were added to the case.
He reportedly shouted “All these Jews need to die” during the attack. Before the shooting, he condemned Jewish immigrant aid group HIAS on his website.
President Trump has been accused by American Jews of failing to appropriately respond to the attack and act against the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States.
More of Trump’s guests for the speech include Anna Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old woman whose life sentence for drug offenses was commuted by the president, and Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Delaware, who was allegedly bullied because of his last name. They will sit with first lady Melania Trump during the address.
The White House says Trump will call for optimism and unity in Tuesday’s address, using the moment to attempt a reset after two years of bitter partisanship and deeply personal attacks, and a recent government shutdown that caused his address to be delayed by a week.
Trump and his top aides have also hinted that he is likely to use the address to announce a major milestone in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. Despite the objections of some advisers, Trump announced in December that he was withdrawing U.S. forces in Syria.
Administration officials say the White House has also been weighing several “moonshot” goals for the State of the Union address. One that is expected to be announced is a new initiative aimed at ending transmissions of HIV by 2030.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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