A heavily armed gunman opened fire in the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, killing 11 Jewish worshippers on Saturday, Oct. 27. This has been by far the most violent anti-Semitic attack in all of U.S history, causing the most deaths. During the Synagogue’s usual Saturday Shabbat service, suspect Robert Bowers, a 46-year old trucker with anti-semitic beliefs, stormed in to the church with a semiautomatic assault rifle and three handguns.
Bowers shouted anti-semitic statements and then proceeded to shoot. The attack lasted 20 minutes. The synagogue did not have security guards, and it was almost ten minutes until police were contacted. Once police arrived, the officers exchanged fire with Bowers, who was eventually taken to a local hospital with several wounds. Before the attack, Bowers publicly displayed his anti-Semitic beliefs, posting rants about his beliefs on many platforms.
Along with the 11 dead, two worshippers and four police officers were injured. Some of the dead people included two brothers, a married couple, and a 97-year old woman. Prosecutors have filed 29 counts against Bowers. He has been charged with using a firearm to to commit murder through violence, obstructing exercise of religious beliefs resulting in injury and death, and more.
The massacre has since prompted responses from the Pittsburgh community, the President, and celebrities from both sides of the political spectrum. Many are fighting for stricter gun laws after seeing the harm that the semiautomatic weapons used in this attack caused. President Trump visited the synagogue, offering his condolences to the loved ones of the worshippers who passed away.
Many officials, including the Mayor of Pittsburgh[,] did not approve of Trump’s visit. Trump received blame for the attack because he had not made any changes to U.S. gun laws. He was criticized for his views on gun use by many people shortly after the attack. The shooting was on the minds of people of all ages, religions, and political beliefs as people from all across the U.S. said their prayers and posted about the event on social media to raise awareness.
Bowers denied speaking at his first court hearing and requested a defense attorney. His next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 1. The victims of the violent act were of ages 54-97, and had their lives commemorated at several funeral services at the synagogue shortly after the attack. On Sunday, protesters gathered outside of the synagogue and nonviolently protested against the violent use of guns and the shooter’s anti-Semitic beliefs.
People flew in from all across the world to show their support, and the protests are just beginning. The synagogue will continue to operate, and is going to come back “stronger and better than ever,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Myers in an interview with the New York Times, who was leading a service at the synagogue as the attack began.
The synagogue and the victims are receiving an endless amount of support. An online fundraiser is well on its way to raising one million dollars for the synagogue. Pittsburgh citizens are also reaching out to their local police department, writing notes and delivering food to the officers. As of now, Bowers has a number of court hearings in the near future, and the people of the synagogue are slowly recovering from aftermath of the tragic event.