Daily Kickoff: Special edition on yesterday’s synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh


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This is a special Sunday edition of the Daily Kickoff given yesterday’s tragic event in Pittsburgh

Victims In Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Begin To Be Identified: “The identities of the victims that were inside the Tree of Life Synagogue Saturday are now being released. The 11 victims that were killed in the shooting were identified as: Joyce Fienburg, 75-year-old, of Oakland; Richard Gottfried, 65-years-old, of Ross Township; Rose Mallinger, 97-years-old, of Squirrel Hill; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66-years-old, of Edgewood; Cecil Rosenthal, 59-years-old, of Squirrel Hill; David Rosenthal, 54-years old, of Squirrel Hill; Bernice Simon, 84-years-old, of Wilkinsburg; Sylvan Simon, 86-years-old, of Wilkinsburg; Daniel Stein, 71-years-old, of Squirrel Hill; Melvin Wax, 88-years-old, of Squirrel Hill; and Irving Younger, 69-years-old, of Mt. Washington.” [CBSPittsburgh]

“In a rampage described as among the deadliest against the Jewish community in the United States,[Robert Bowers] stormed into the Tree of Life Congregation… Though a bris, a ceremony to mark a child’s birth, was among the ceremonies taking place Saturday, no children were among the casualties.” [NYTimes] • For 20 minutes, synagogue shooter turned a brit milah into a bloodbath [ToI]

ON THE SCENE REPORTING ― by David Shribman, executive editor of the Post-Gazette: “It didn’t require social media for the news of the shooting at the Tree of Life to spread. The news was in the air, along with the shock and the sadness, the grief and the gruesome details, the worst of which were confirmed within hours. You could hear it in the sirens that broke the stillness of the morning and shattered the serenity of the Saturday routines at the cleaners, at the shoe store, at the hotcake house… This was, to be sure, a 21st century event. Gunfire in a house of worship. Text messages flying at the speed of bullets… And of course: Confusion, and then clarity, over how many dead, how many wounded.” [PostGazette]

Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto: Saturday was “one of the darkest days in the history of Pittsburgh. We’ve been ripped apart. This is going to be a very difficult time for our city. But we’ll be there to help each other and lift each other up, and pull people together.” [Haaretz]

Daniel Gilman, chief of staff for Mayor Peduto, writes… “[Yesterday] was one of the hardest days of my life. As a Pittsburgher, [a] proud member of the Jewish Community, and Chief of Staff of the City. Today, I lost friends – people I had known my whole life. I have friends and family grieving. I have a community struggling with hate and violence. I have heroic first responders who risked their lives to save dozens. I also have the best City in the world behind me. Pittsburgh will always be stronger than hate. We will always build bridges. We will work through this together. Thank you Pittsburgh!”

Bearing Witness — by Billy Shore: “My sister Debbie and I have probably been to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood where we grew up a few dozen times for bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs, weddings, and other services… For us, the mass shooting this Saturday morning evoked the interviews we’ve all seen in previously unheard of places where someone is saying “we never thought something like that could happen here.” Now the voices sound eerily like our own, because they are.”[ShareOurStrength]

Bari Weiss, who had bat mitzvah at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, writes… “A Massacre in the Heart of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: The heartbreaking coincidence is that the Jewish emphasis on the open door, on welcoming the stranger, is exactly what the Jews of Tree of Life and the Jews of every synagogue big and small in every far-flung corner of the globe were reading about this Shabbat morning. They were reading from the chapters of Genesis we refer to as Vayera. The Torah portion opens on Judaism’s founding father and mother: Abraham and Sarah. Three men show up to their tent — strangers — and the couple welcomes them: feeding them, giving them shade and washing their feet.” [NYTimes]

“Love thy neighbor. No exceptions.” — Tom Hanks, who is filming a movie about Mister Rogers in Pittsburgh, shared a photo of a sign in front of a house in Pittsburgh following the shooting. “Again, to me this photo is the spirit of Pittsburgh- with a broken heart today for those in Squirrel Hill” [Pic]

MEDIA WATCH — Alana Newhouse‏: “The entire Tablet staff will be in Pittsburgh all week—as reporters, volunteers, etc. We’ll be based at the JCC but mobile. Come by or email us with any need.”

COMING TOGETHER — After a mass synagogue shooting, a post-Shabbat service draws thousands — by Ron Kampeas: “For many in the crowd, the shooting seemed of a piece with recent horrors: The 13 pipe bombs that a Florida man, obsessed with President Donald Trump’s enemies, had sent to leading liberals and Democrats; the Parkland shootings; the deadly neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017; the man in Kentucky who killed two blacks at a Kroger and tried to enter a black church. “We usually don’t get that in Squirrel Hill,” said Tamara Bizyayev, a nurse who came to the vigil with her husband, Alex Kosheni. “God is the center of the town,” she said, and pointed her chin at the church that stood hard by the Jewish community center… There were similar vigils Saturday night across the country, non-Jews coming together with Jews to express solidarity.” [JTA]

— Rabbi Keren Gorban of Temple Sinai, which like other Squirrel Hill synagogues went in lockdown Saturday morning, had the crowd learn and repeat a chant in Hebrew for: “May you spread your shelter of peace over us.” And Wasi Mohamed, executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, said Muslims had already raised $15,000 to aid the Pittsburgh Jewish community in its response to the tragedy.” [PostGazette]

Hundreds Of New Yorkers Gather To Say Kaddish For Victims Of Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting — by Jen Chung: “Bundled up against the cold and drizzling rain, hundreds of attendees in Union Square sang Jewish songs and said Kaddish, a Hebrew prayer commonly recited following the death of a loved one. Led by local rabbis, attendees also participated in the Havdalah ceremony, lighting braided candles and reciting additional prayers to commemorate the end of the Sabbath.” [GothamistVideo]

WHITE HOUSE PHOTO — President Donald Trump briefed by national security aide Michael Burnett aboard Air Force One about the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

President Donald Trump ordered the flag of the United States to be flown at half-staff at the White House, U.S. embassies, and upon all public buildings and grounds. Trump also told reporters yesterday that he intends to visit the Pittsburgh synagogue, but did not give a time frame.

Trump in his first public reaction to the shooting during a speech in Indianapolis: “Our minds cannot comprehend the cruel hate and the twisted malice that could cause a person to unleash such terrible violence during a baby naming ceremony. This was a baby naming ceremony at a sacred house of worship on the holy day of Sabbath. Anti-Semitism and the widespread persecution of Jews represents one off the ugliest and darkest features of human history. The vial, hate-filled poison of anti-Semitism must be condemned and confronted everywhere and anywhere it appears. There must be no tolerance for anti-Semitism in America or for any form of religious or racial hatred or prejudice.” [CSPAN]

Following his remarks, Trump invited Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow of Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Indianapolis to offer a prayer for the victims [Video] • Trump and Sendrow hugged after the prayers [Pic]

Trump at a campaign rally in Illinois: “The scourge of anti-Semitism cannot be ignored, cannot be tolerated and it cannot be allowed to continue… We must stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters to defeat anti-Semitism and vanquish the forces of hate… We must draw a line in the sand and say very strongly, Never again!” [CSPAN]

HOW IT PLAYED — Trump Calls for Unity After Synagogue Shooting, Then Swiftly Denounces Democrats — by Katie Rogers and Jeffery Mays: “Amid a growing outcry, the president seemed to soften his tone as the day went on, even as he disparaged [Nancy] Pelosi in Indiana and delivered a partisan political message in Illinois. As he crisscrossed the Midwest, he spoke with his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who are both Jewish… With 10 days to go until the midterm elections, the president at first wavered on whether to continue with his schedule on Saturday. He briefly considered canceling, but seemed ready to move forward after a rabbi and pastor delivered prayers onstage at the farmers’ conference.” [NYTimes]

IN JERUSALEM — Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting opened with a moment of silence for the victims. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video statement: “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.”

Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan visited the scene on Saturday night. [PicDayan will attend the funerals of the victims and participate in public mourning events. He will also meet with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Bill Peduto, and members of the Jewish community.

SCENE IN TEL AVIV — The municipal building in Tel Aviv was lit up in the colors of the American flag last night in solidarity with the victims of the deadly shooting  [Pic

DRIVING THE CONVO — The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting comes amid a yearslong rise in anti-Semitism — by Tara Isabella Burton: “In the last year for which complete data is available, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)… found that there had been 1,986 reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States that year… The surge between 2016 and 2017 was the highest increase in incidents on-record since the ADL started reporting on them in 1979.” [Vox] • For American Jews, Pittsburgh synagogue massacre is culmination of worst fears [WashPost]

Ann Lewis, who served as White House director of communications for President Bill Clinton, emails us… “My reaction is grief – and anger. Grief for the lives lost, thinking of the pain and fear, the parents and children in every Jewish community, and wondering if they will be safe when they go to synagogue or Hebrew school to learn and pray in the United States of America? I am angry at the deliberate use of political rhetoric that evokes anti-Semitic imagery; the ads that could be illustrations for the Protocols of The Elders of Zion.”

Leon Wieseltier: “This was the darkest day in the history of American Jewry. Though physical attacks on American Jews have occurred before, anti-Semitism in America has usually not taken violent forms — but now we have witnessed a massacre of Jews because they are Jews on American soil. In America, an unprecedented abomination. If this atrocity is not typical of our American history, however, it is increasingly typical of our American times. The American Jewish community has been inducted into the contemporary horrors. The Tree is our Mother Emmanuel, our Pulse; and we have also been given a taste of what our brothers and sisters in France have endured. Will our children now greet armed guards as they enter our Jewish schools?”

“There are many observations that must be made about the political origins of this lethal madness, but I am too shaken for politics right now. Before we vote, we weep. As the worshippers in Squirrel Hill read about the binding of Isaac, no angel appeared to stop a slaughter. At this moment we are, above all, mourners. These are days of sorrow and solidarity, of lamentation and law enforcement.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism: “Today is for grieving. As a Jewish community, we must come together in solidarity to support those who are grieving and mourn with them. To speak the names and honor the lives of the innocent people who were murdered, and help in any way possible to comfort their loved ones. Tomorrow is for acting. There is not a simple answer to solve the systemic issues of hate, of incitement to violence, and of excessive access to weapons of war. We must maintain our focus on acting to combat the deep and destructive issues, and the incitement no matter from whom it comes, that are leading to a ceaseless chain of senseless hate and death.”

Tevi Troy: “Anti-Semitism is and has long been an unfortunate reality. Add that to the increasing American problem of mass shootings — every president since Reagan has presided over more mass shootings than his predecessor— and we see the horror of Pittsburgh. It is incumbent upon all of us, left and right, Jew and Gentile, American and not American, to unite to fight the scourge of Anti-Semitism wherever it exists. It’s not endemic to one party, to one country, to one religion; it is something that manifests itself in too many ideologies and too many parts of this world. We need a united effort to combat it in all its forms.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) tweets“I’m a Jew. I grew up in Pennsylvania. My conservative synagogue was the center of my life. This mass shooting, like the one a few miles from my home, feels intensely personal. Again. We’re divided on so much, but can we come together to condemn hatred and violence? Just that?”

Rabbi Sharon Brous“America is waking up. Our grief and indignation are fueling our moral imagination. We have to use our voices, our money, our connections, whatever public platform and whatever political capital we have to call out the insanity of a culture of hatred and access to deadly weapons. We need to harness our anger, fear and grief, and bring it all to the polls on Nov. 6th.”

INBOX TRAFFIC — American Jewish Groups Vow to Fight Antisemitism Following ‘Deadliest Attack on Jews in US History’ [AlgemeinerForward]

HEARD ON TV — ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt on CNN with Brooke Baldwin: “The notion that our houses of worship become houses of slaughter is the kind of things we should not tolerate… We cannot let the white supremacists, the bigots and the haters win… We need our leaders to lead and to call this out when it happens, immediately, intentionally and honestly with sincerity – to say that hate has no place in our country… And I wish that our elected leaders would turn down the rhetoric.”

Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS, on CNN: “The problem is that there is a growing space in this country for hate speech, and hate speech always turns into hate actions, and that’s what we are seeing again this week. Our focus has to be in fighting hate. We can’t stand by, as individuals or as organizations or as governments, when people spew hatred against Jews, against refugees.”

Ambassador Ron Dermer tweets“The Jewish state mourns with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh over this horrific attack. ה’ ינקום דמם. To all the antisemites out there on Twitter: !עם ישראל חי”

Franklin Foer writes… “A Prayer for Squirrel Hill—And for American Jewry: After the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Gary Cohn couldn’t bring himself to resign from his job. After Squirrel Hill, Jared Kushner and Sheldon Adelson will likely stand their ground. In response to this massacre, every synagogue will protect itself with great security, with more cameras and more guards…. Any strategy for enhancing the security of American Jewry should involve shunning Trump’s Jewish enablers. Their money should be refused, their presence in synagogues not welcome. They have placed their community in danger.” [TheAtlantic

John Podhoretz“Donald Trump should be assigned no such blame, even if the shooter were the president of the Donald Trump Fan Club, because he pulled no trigger and committed no crime. Period. To do that, to assign blame, is to whitewash the crime itself and the criminal’s responsibility for it… Where I won’t let Trump off the hook here is the way in which he does nothing to try to calm the political atmosphere and rather seeks to secure an advantage from the way it roils. He should be better than this, because everyone should, and he’s not, and that’s both sad and bad.”

Jeffrey Herf“[Trump’s] response to the horrific news that a gunman had killed 11 people and wounded six at Shabbat services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh made it clear that Trump doesn’t actually understand the nature of anti-Semitism at all. After the shooting, on the airport tarmac… Trump didn’t utter a single word about anti-Semitism. Instead, he resorted to the talking points of the National Rifle Association regarding the need for armed guards in the synagogue, as if an armed guard with a pistol could have been a match for this lunatic armed, yet again, with an AR-15-style assault rifle.”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach“President Trump, who has been a huge supporter of Israel, and has a Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren, is in an important position to speak out against this attack and the growth of this disgusting anti-Semitism. He must give a major speech to tell the country and the world that America stands with its Jewish citizens and will do all it can to protect the Jewish community against the world’s oldest hatred.”

Olivia Nuzzi‏ tweets“Before noon today, I asked the White House if Donald Trump would be reassessing his use of phrases with anti-Semitic implications like “globalist” and if not, how he justifies the continued use of that term. I received no response, but during his remarks in Indiana, he said this: “We don’t worry much about the globalists. We want to take care of the globe, too, but we have to take care of ourselves before we start worrying about others.”

Jonathan Schanzer“If you’re blaming one person, one party, one movement for anti-Semitism, you really don’t understand the problem. Today’s fascist will be tomorrow’s left wing extremist or jihadist. Don’t ignore what this murderer believed. But also don’t ignore that he shares a hatred embedded in other extremist ideologies that span the political spectrum: the oldest hatred.”

Sam Stein writes… “I Grew Up in a Place Where I Felt Safe from Anti-Semitism—It was the United States: This is what the shooter was targeting: not individuals but the very elements that bind those individuals together—a sense of spirituality, a place of worship, and centuries of tradition. He was targeting the seamlessness with which the Jewish community has fit into America’s social fabric. He wanted that younger me to not be so flippant about anti-Semitism, to not feel so removed from the atrocities that had accompanied Jews elsewhere. And, to a degree, I’m afraid he has succeeded. I will raise my son Jewish. And though I admit to feeling conflicted in the current moment, I know that I will do so proudly because to do otherwise is to allow this monster to determine our people’s collective identity.” [DailyBeast]

Howard Fineman“I covered Ku Klux Klan rallies, court-ordered busing, “dirty tricksters” of the right from Richard Nixon to Paul Manafort, and Trump rallies across the country. None of that shook my belief that the country could somehow harvest the energy of protest against “elites” for some eventual good. Now I am not so sure. The pendulum seems to be swinging more wildly and widely every day. The whole machinery feels in danger of racing out of control.”

Why the Tree of Life Shooter Was Fixated on the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society — by Masha Gessen: “Bowers isn’t the only person apparently obsessed with HIAS. The extreme right has been vilifying the organization for some time. The anti-Semitic right has accused HIAS of bringing immigrants to the United States in a scheme that is somehow designed to benefit Jews. On the Jewish far right, the Zionist Organization of America has attacked HIAS and other Jewish organizations for lobbying to admit Syrian refugees to the U.S. and has accused HIAS of doing so for profit.” [NewYorker]

Attacks on Jewish people rising on Instagram and Twitter, researchers say — by David Ingram: “Separate researchers who were independently looking at the two social networks said that attacks on Jewish people had spiked on both services ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, similar to a rise in harassment that occurred before the 2016 presidential election… Jonathan Albright, a Columbia University researcher who directs a center on digital forensics, told NBC News that the amount of anti-Semitic material posted to Instagram and tied to Soros was possibly the worst sample of hate speech he had seen on the popular photo-sharing app.” [NBCNews]

The Conspiratorial Hate We See Online Is Increasingly Appearing In Real Life — by Charlie Warzel: “Connecting the online footprints to tragedies in the physical world also reveals an undeniable truth: that the dichotomy between an online world and “real life” is (and has always been) a false one. The hatred, trolling, harassment, and conspiracy theorizing of the internet’s underbelly cannot be dismissed as empty, nihilistic performance. It may be a game, but it’s a game with consequences. And it’s spilling into the physical world with greater, more alarming frequency.” [BuzzFeed]


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