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October 31, 2018 8:32 am

Trump Visits Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre Site, as Funerals for Victims Get Underway

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US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oct. 30, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Kevin Lamarque.

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday visited the Pittsburgh synagogue attacked by an antisemitic gunman and lit candles for each of the 11 slain worshipers, while thousands protested his presence in the city and victims’ families began burying their dead.

The presidential trip, which sources said congressional leaders of both parties declined to join, came as Trump drew widespread disapproval for inflammatory rhetoric that some critics said may have helped provoke the deadliest attack ever on American Jewry.

Shrugging off public assertions from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto that Trump’s visit was ill-timed, the president entered the Tree of Life temple where Saturday’s shooting rampage occurred, accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump.

They were greeted by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who led them inside the temple to light ritual yahrzeit candles in memory of the victims. Emerging about 18 minutes later, the couple walked to a memorial outside the building, where the first lady placed a flower and the president placed a small stone on a marker for each of the dead.

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Trump, who according to press secretary Sarah Sanders, described his visit as “very humbling and sad,” left in his motorcade after about 30 minutes at the synagogue.

He made no public remarks.

“He wanted today to be about showing respect for the families and the friends of the victims as well as for Jewish Americans,” Sanders said.

Several thousand protesters, an ethnically mixed crowd of all ages including members of Pittsburgh’s tight-knit Jewish community, held an anti-Trump rally about a block away from the synagogue just as his visit began, singing Old Testament psalms and carrying signs with slogans such as, “We build bridges not walls.”

Many of their signs carried slogans and imagery invoking one of Squirrel Hill’s most famous residents, the late Fred Rogers, whose long-running children’s television show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” featured lessons on friendship and kindness. Their march started on the street where he grew up and ended at the church where he belonged.

Trump also went to a city hospital and visited three police officers, wounded in a gunfight with the shooting suspect, and their families.

Sanders said Trump also spent time with the wife of one of the slain congregants, Richard Gottfried, 65. “She said she wanted to meet the president to let him know that they wanted him there.”

The president and his wife were joined by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, his daughter and son-in-law, who are Jewish and serve as White House advisers, and by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is also Jewish.

The first funerals for the victims of the attack were held earlier on Tuesday. More than 1,800 people, some from across the United States, came to pay respects to relatives of David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59, at Rodef Shalom, another synagogue in the Squirrel Hill district that forms the heart of the city’s Jewish community. Police officers were posted outside the temple.

The two brothers, who lived at a home for people with disabilities, were among the 11 mostly elderly congregants killed when a gunman stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue and opened fire on worshipers, yelling: “All Jews must die.”

The accused gunman, Robert Bowers, 46, was charged on Monday with 29 federal felony counts, including hate crimes, and could face the death penalty if convicted.

 

 

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