CRIME

Religious Groups And Leaders Condemn Pittsburgh Shooting And 'Hate In This World'

ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt called the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue "the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.”

Religious leaders and groups have begun to publicly respond to the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday morning.

The shooter killed eleven people and injured six people, including four police officers who were injured.

The shooting will be prosecuted as a hate crime, with the FBI leading an investigation, Pittsburgh police have said. Law enforcement officials have identified a suspect, Robert Bowers, who has been taken into custody.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt released a statement calling it the “deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.” 

“Our hearts break for the families of those killed and injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and for the entire Jewish community of Pittsburgh,” the statement said.

The shooting occurred at the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha congregation in the residential Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Rabbi Alvin Berkun, rabbi emeritus of Tree of Life Or L’Simcha, described Squirrel Hill as “an amazing neighborhood” in an interview with ABC News.

“It’s dominated by the Jewish Community Center four blocks away, dominated by kosher stores, kosher bakeries, all kinds of Jewish gift shops, book shops ... number of synagogues,” he said.

Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh CEO Jeffrey Finkelstein, who is not a member of the Tree of Life congregation, told CNN in an interview “this should not be happening.”

“My heart goes out to all these families ― this should not be happening, period,” he said. “It should not be happening in a synagogue, it should not be happening in our neighborhood here in Squirrel Hill.”

When asked to address the fact that the shooting will be investigated as a hate crime, Rabbi Chuck Diamond, former rabbi of the Tree Of Life Or L’Simcha, told local CBS affiliate KDKA that he works to teach “tolerance to all people.

“There’s hate in this world, but we have to have tolerance, and I try to teach tolerance to all people, even if they disagree with you,” he said. “There’s different ways to observe God, and there’s different paths to take, but we just have to try to be tolerant. Because of the hate, we have to fight hate by doing good things.” 

Diamond also noted that he had feared something like this would happen “because of the world we live in.” 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also released a video statement on Twitter mourning the deaths Saturday.

“I was heartbroken and appalled, by the murderous attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue today,” he said. “The entire people of Israel grieve with the families of the dead. We stand together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, we stand together with the American people, in the face of this horrendous anti-Semitic brutality. And we all pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded.”

Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a statement on Saturday in solidarity with the Jewish community. 

“We condemn this heinous and cowardly attack on a house of worship, offer heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of all those who were killed or injured and express our solidarity with the Jewish community during this time of shock and grief,” said program director Zohra Lasania. 

CAIR-Pittsburgh chapter President Safdar Khwaja added:

“This barbaric attack on our neighbors, with whom we share our city and have visited and dialogued multiple times, is deeply disturbing and horrifying. Such an act of terror affects all of us.” 

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