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October 28, 2018 12:31 pm

Tributes to Victims of Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre Pour in From US, Around the World

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A little boy heads for an impromptu memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Photo: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton.

Tributes to the victims of Saturday’s shooting massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh continued to pour in Sunday from Jewish organizations in the US, Israel and around the world.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) – with which the Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha congregation was affiliated – said it was “heartbroken and devastated by the horror of the shooting and murder today at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh.”

“We are outraged by the hatred this senseless act demonstrated, and distraught by the bloodshed brought once again by gun violence,” the USCJ statement declared. “As our Torah teaches us, we are each responsible for one another, and commanded to honor the image of God in one another. Our sense of justice compels us to address the core issues facing not only the Jewish people but all people in our country in pursuit of a civil society.”

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU) and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) issued a joint statement condemning the “senseless act of antisemitic violence” at the synagogue’s shabbat morning service.

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“Our hearts break for the senseless murder of our fellow Jews and all victims of vicious hate crimes,” said Moishe Bane, president of the OU.  “We condemn the dangerous rhetoric that foments such senseless violence and we stand with the Tree of Life Congregation and the whole Pittsburgh community at this terrible time.”

Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice president of the RCA, added: “One of the greatest privileges of those who are fortunate to be citizens of the United States is the freedom to worship as we believe and to live in safety and security. We need to come together as a nation to protect these precious gifts for all members of all faiths.”

The Union for Reform Judaism stated that the “slaughter of our brothers and sisters praying in their holy synagogue this Shabbat in Pittsburgh breaks our collective heart.”

“The murders took place during a prayer service in the Tree of Life congregation where, like synagogues all around the world, they were reading from Genesis recounting how Abraham welcomed perfect strangers into his tent,” URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs commented. “How painful and ironic that we live in a time when we have to temper our loving welcome of strangers as we protect our communities from violence and hate.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations warned in a statement that “words are not enough.”

“There must be concrete action at every level to address the promoters of hate and the sources of incitement to violence if we are to root out racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism, which has increased significantly in recent years,” Conference of Presidents Chairman Arthur Stark and Executive Vice Chairman/CEO Malcolm Hoenlein said. “There must be zero tolerance for intolerance. No excuses, no exceptions.”

The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) said in a statement that the “carnage at the Pittsburgh synagogue, which was carried out by a hate-filled and avowed antisemite, shocks the conscience and is beyond the pale.” The statement added that NCYI “fully supports the [US] administration’s decision to prosecute the shooter under the hate crimes act, which we backed, and to possibly pursue the death penalty.”

The Israeli American Council (IAC) situated Saturday’s atrocity within the context of rising antisemitic terrorism and violence globally. “Slaughtering Jews whether they are worshipping at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, shopping at a Kosher supermarket in Paris, or walking on the streets of Jerusalem is just the extreme manifestation of this ongoing scourge,” the IAC said in a statement.

Messages from Jewish organizations outside the US included a statement of support from Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Nazi Holocaust.

“We are particularly sensitive to the toxic dangers of antisemitism, in its many forms and contexts, and to its destructive implications – not only for Jews, but for all of civilized society,” Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said. “At Yad Vashem, we have learned, and ardently teach, about the painful truth of the fragility of democratic societies, and the need to perpetually buttress their effective commitment to tolerance, pluralism and human rights.”

In the UK, the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAAS) launched an online initiative – “#TogetherAgainstAntisemitism” – which enables social media users to add a Star of David graphic to their social media profiles.

“We mourn with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh,” the CAAS said. “Today we are reminded so brutally and heartbreakingly why we must stand together against antisemitism.”

CRIF, France’s Jewish representative organization, said it had learned of the shooting “with sadness and anger.”

“This attack once again underlines that in the United States and France, antisemitism remains an ideological poison but also a deadly threat,” CRIF said on Twitter.

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