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November 4, 2018 8:57 pm

Jewish Nurse Who Treated Pittsburgh Shooter Is Son of Rabbi, Experienced Antisemitic Bullying as a Child

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People pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oct. 29, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Cathal McNaughton.

The nurse who treated Pittsburgh murderer Robert Bowers after he killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue last Saturday is both Jewish and the son of a rabbi, and experienced antisemitic bullying as a child, he revealed in a lengthy Facebook post over the weekend.

“I experienced anti-Semitism a lot as a kid,” wrote Ari Mahler. “Sure, there were a few Jewish kids at my school, but no one else had a father who was a Rabbi.”

Mahler’s father, Rabbi Mark Joel Mahler, is the rabbi of a local Reform synagogue.

“I found drawings on desks of my family being marched into gas chambers,” Mahler recounted, “swastikas drawn on my locker, and notes shoved inside of it saying, ‘Die Jew. Love, Hitler.'”

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As an adult, he sometimes sought to minimize his Jewishness, telling people, “I’m not that religious.” This was “like saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not that Jewish, therefore, I’m not so different than you,’ and like clockwork, people don’t look at me as awkwardly as they did a few seconds beforehand.”

Mahler feels the Pittsburgh massacre was inevitable. “The fact that this shooting took place doesn’t shock me,” he wrote. “To be honest, it’s only a matter of time before the next one happens. History refutes hope that things will change. My heart yearns for change, but today’s climate doesn’t foster nurturing, tolerance, or civility.”

“Even before this shooting took place, there’s no real evidence supporting otherwise,” he added. “The FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center note that Jews only account for two percent of the U.S. population, yet 60% of all religious hate crimes are committed against them. I don’t know why people hate us so much, but the underbelly of anti-Semitism seems to be thriving.”

Despite his Jewish identity, Mahler was able to feel empathy for Bowers, saying, “To be honest, I didn’t see evil when I looked into Robert Bowers’ eyes. All I saw was a clear lack of depth, intelligence, and palpable amounts of confusion.”

“Robert Bowers probably had no friends,” he added, “was easily influenced by propaganda, and wanted attention on a sociopathic level. He’s the kind of person that is easily manipulated by people with a microphone, a platform, and use fear for motivation.”

“I chose to show him empathy,” Mahler said. “I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong. Besides, if he finds out I’m Jewish, does it really matter? The better question is, what does it mean to you?”

“Love,” he stated. “That’s why I did it. Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope. It demonstrates humanity. … I could care less what Robert Bowers thinks, but you, the person reading this, love is the only message I wish to instill in you. If my actions mean anything, love means everything.”

Another nurse and the doctor who treated Bowers were also Jewish.

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