News, Culture & Society

Congressional leader refuse to join Trump and Melania in Pittsburgh to visit synagogue

Donald and Melania Trump arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Tuesday to mourn the 11 victims of Saturday’s Tree of Life synagogue massacre – dodging protesters without the benefit of congressional leaders to diffuse their anger.

Senate and House members from both sides of the political aisle declined to join the president and first lady, while the mayor questioned the timing of the first couple’s visit honoring the 11 victims of Saturday’s mass-shooting.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, made the trip, along with Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. Both are Orthodox Jews who serve as senior presidential advisers.

In the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood large numbers gathered to protest against the president’s presence. With police trying to clear them from city streets, they marched behind a banner urging the president to ‘fully renounce white nationalism.’

Other signs suggested the ‘No Antisemitism, No White Supremacy, No Trump’ rally was about more than the perception the the president harbors antipathy toward Jews. One sign read: ‘Radical love: not hate, not guns, not deportation.’

Large banners addressed immigration, gay rights and, more generically, ‘hatred.’ More than 1,000 paraded past TV cameras, singing songs including ‘This Land is Your Land,’ according to a witness.

As the presidential motorcade snaked eastward through the city, a few Pittsburghers offered what a pool reporter described as ‘the thumbs down, or a middle finger up.’ One man shouted: ‘We didn’t invite you here!’ Another held a sign that read ‘Trump ♥️ Nazis.’ 

Once at the synagogue, the Trumps and Dermer went with Rabbi Jeffrey Myers into the vestibule to light candles in the martyrs’ memory. Then they laid stones and white flowers at each of the 11 memorial sites outside. Myers said earlier in the day that the interior of the synagogue, still an active crime scene, was too bullet-riddled to be used for worship.

White House senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump spoke with Rabbi Jeffrey Myers (left) as President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump paid their respects outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh

President Trump brought Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer (2nd right) for the afternoon; they went with Tree of Life Synagogue Rabbi Jeffrey Myers into the vestibule of the temple and then laid stones at the 11 memorial sites outside

President Trump brought Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer (2nd right) for the afternoon; they went with Tree of Life Synagogue Rabbi Jeffrey Myers into the vestibule of the temple and then laid stones at the 11 memorial sites outside

Message: Huge numbers of protesters gathered close to the Tree of Life synagogue to demonstrate against the president's presence and actions

Message: Huge numbers of protesters gathered close to the Tree of Life synagogue to demonstrate against the president’s presence and actions

A gunman killed 11 people and wounded six during a mass-shooting Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel  Hill neighborhood

A gunman killed 11 people and wounded six during a mass-shooting Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel  Hill neighborhood

Here to mourn: Donald and Melania Trump walked down from Air Force One for their visit to Pittsburgh, where they paid tribute to the martyrs

Here to mourn: Donald and Melania Trump walked down from Air Force One for their visit to Pittsburgh, where they paid tribute to the martyrs

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi all declined invitations to join the Trumps in

The lawmakers’ decisions to decline the White House’s invitation came in the wake of the mayor of Pittsburgh suggesting the Trumps should visit at a different time.

In the city itself, hundreds of mourners lined the streets and waited to get into the funerals of three of the victims of the antisemitic attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday. 

David and Cecil Rosenthal, 54, and 59, were laid to rest in a joint ceremony which was attended by the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

At the same time, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz was eulogized in a separate ceremony at the Jewish Community Center. 

The brothers were both killed in the basement kitchen of the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday by gunman Robert Bowers. They lived together in a home nearby and volunteered at the synagogue often. 

Mayor Bill Peduto told CNN Monday evening that he tried to tell the White House the city’s first priority on Tuesday will be the funerals – not the first couple’s visit. 

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were with the president – her father – on Air Force One. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders highlighted the couple's Jewish faith on Monday

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were with the president – her father – on Air Force One. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders highlighted the couple’s Jewish faith on Monday

Trump salutes as he departs Air Force One on his way to mourn the dead of the Tree of Life massacre

Trump salutes as he departs Air Force One on his way to mourn the dead of the Tree of Life massacre

Pointing the finger: Protesters linking Donald Trump's rhetoric to the massacre carried out on Saturday at the Tree of Life synaguge gathered in Pittsburgh

Pointing the finger: Protesters linking Donald Trump’s rhetoric to the massacre carried out on Saturday at the Tree of Life synaguge gathered in Pittsburgh

Mourning: The caskets of brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal were carried out at the same time after the Tuesday morning service which hundreds lined up to attend

Mourning: The caskets of brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal were carried out at the same time after the Tuesday morning service which hundreds lined up to attend

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto suggested the first couple come another day as Tuesday's priority will be the funerals

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto suggested the first couple come another day as Tuesday’s priority will be the funerals

Mitch McConnell

Paul Ryan

Republican Congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan declined to join the Trumps in Pittsburgh on Tuesday

‘I do believe that it would be best to put the attention on the families this week and if he were to visit choose a different time to be able to do it,’ Peduto said. ‘Our focus as a city will be on the families and the outreach they will need this week and the support they’ll need to get through it.’  

Peduto said ‘all attention [Tuesday] should be on the victims.’ 

He also pointed to the logistical problems brought on by a presidential visit, which requires heavy security.

‘We do not have enough public safety officials to provide enough protection at the funerals and to be able at the same time draw attention to a potential presidential visit,’ Peduto said Monday. 

But the president begins a heavy campaign schedule on Wednesday – 11 rallies in six days in the lead up to next Tuesday’s election.

The synagogue has been closed since the shooting and the funerals will take place through Friday. 

People in Pittsburgh are divided on the president’s visit. 

To Marianne Novy, President Trump isn’t wanted ‘unless he really changes his ways.’ For David Dvir, politics should take a pause for grief: ‘It’s our president, and we need to welcome him.’

Trump is once again called upon to step into the all-too-frequent role of national consoler after the worst instance of anti-Semitic violence in American history.  

Pall bearers carry the other brother's casket out of the Rodef Shalmon Congregation on Tuesday 

Pall bearers carry the other brother’s casket out of the Rodef Shalmon Congregation on Tuesday 

Flowers are left for the brothers outside the Tree of Life synagogue, where they died, on Saturday. The synagogue remains a crime scene 

Flowers are left for the brothers outside the Tree of Life synagogue, where they died, on Saturday. The synagogue remains a crime scene 

David (left) was quieter than Cecil (right) whose nickname was the 'Mayor of Squirrel Hill' because he was so sociable and beloved by so many of the neighborhood's residents

David (left) was quieter than Cecil (right) whose nickname was the 'Mayor of Squirrel Hill' because he was so sociable and beloved by so many of the neighborhood's residents

David (left) was quieter than Cecil (right) whose nickname was the ‘Mayor of Squirrel Hill’ because he was so sociable and beloved by so many of the neighborhood’s residents. The brothers were always together and took their responsibilities at the synagogue seriously. Rabbis said they always knew to give them a Torah each to be brought out before services 

Among those present was Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Perduto (center in a blue striped tie) whose face was etched with grief as he left the service 

Among those present was Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Perduto (center in a blue striped tie) whose face was etched with grief as he left the service 

Men embrace outside the Rodef Shalom Congregation on Tuesday after paying their respects to David and Cecil Rosenthal

Men embrace outside the Rodef Shalom Congregation on Tuesday after paying their respects to David and Cecil Rosenthal

A Pittsburgh police officer hugs a mourner after the funeral of David and Cecil Rosenthal on Tuesday 

A Pittsburgh police officer hugs a mourner after the funeral of David and Cecil Rosenthal on Tuesday 

Mourners wipe their tears as they speak with a Pittsburgh police officer before going inside for the funeral of David and Cecil Rosenthal 

Mourners wipe their tears as they speak with a Pittsburgh police officer before going inside for the funeral of David and Cecil Rosenthal 

Steelers players Nat Behre and Stephon Tuitt are pictured arriving at the funeral for David and Cecil Rosenthal

Ben Roethlisberger arrives with his wife Ashley Harlan for the funeral

Steelers players Nat Behre and Stephon Tuitt (left) are pictured arriving at the funeral for David and Cecil Rosenthal. Right, Ben Roethlisberger arrives with his wife Ashley Harlan for the funeral

Mourners hug outside Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh on Saturday before the funeral of brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal

Mourners hug outside Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh on Saturday before the funeral of brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal

This was the scene outside the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday night where tributes to the dead grew beneath police tape. The synagogue's rabbi has said it can never be reused in its current condition and that the bullet holes inside are 'too numerous to count'

This was the scene outside the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday night where tributes to the dead grew beneath police tape. The synagogue’s rabbi has said it can never be reused in its current condition and that the bullet holes inside are ‘too numerous to count’

Freshly dug graves are seen at the Tree of Life Memorial Park on October 29, two days after the atrocity. It is customary for Jews to be buried within three days of dying. The first three victims will be interred on Tuesday

Freshly dug graves are seen at the Tree of Life Memorial Park on October 29, two days after the atrocity. It is customary for Jews to be buried within three days of dying. The first three victims will be interred on Tuesday

He faces an uneasy welcome on Tuesday in the anguished community of Squirrel Hill, home to the Tree of Life synagogue where 11 people were gunned down during Sabbath services. 

The president’s visit to the Pittsburgh neighborhood, where Novy and Dvir live, comes as he struggles to balance appeals for national unity with partisan campaign rhetoric just a week before contentious midterm elections.

Trump said late Monday he was looking forward to the visit.

‘Well, I’m just going to pay my respects,’ Trump told Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham. ‘I’m also going to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt.’ 

Trump is traveling to the historic hub of the city’s Jewish community as the first funerals are scheduled to be held for the victims, who range in age from 54 to 97. He is expected to meet with first responders and community leaders. 

The death toll includes a set of brothers, a husband and wife, professors, dentists and a physician. It was not immediately clear whether Trump, who will be joined by first lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, would meet with any family members.

The White House said the purpose of Trump’s visit was to ‘express the support of the American people and to grieve with the Pittsburgh community.’

Trump’s trip is set against the backdrop of national unease over incidents of political violence and hate, and questions about his credibility as unifier. Since his 2016 campaign for the White House, Trump has at times been slow to denounce white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other hate-filled individuals and groups that found common cause with his nationalistic political rhetoric.

In Squirrel Hill, Barry Werber, 76, who said he survived the massacre by hiding in a dark storage closet as the gunman rampaged through the building, said he hoped Trump wouldn’t visit, noting that the president has embraced the politically fraught label of ‘nationalist.’ Werber said the Nazis were nationalists.

‘It’s part of his program to instigate his base,’ Werber said, and ‘bigots are coming out of the woodwork.’

Novy, 73, a retired college English professor, said she signed an open letter asking Trump not to come to Pittsburgh. ‘His language has encouraged hatred and fear of immigrants, which is part of the reason why these people were killed,’ she said.

Just minutes before the synagogue attack, the shooter apparently took to social media to rage against HIAS, a Jewish organization that resettles refugees under contract with the U.S. government.

A view of the Rodef Shalom Congregation where the funeral for Tree of Life Congregation mass shooting victims Cecil Rosenthal and David Rosenthal, who are brothers, will be held on Tuesday

A view of the Rodef Shalom Congregation where the funeral for Tree of Life Congregation mass shooting victims Cecil Rosenthal and David Rosenthal, who are brothers, will be held on Tuesday

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who survived Saturday's shooting, said on Monday morning that it would be his 'honor' to welcome President Trump to Pittsburgh despite remarks from other Jewish leaders and members of the congregation that they do not want him there

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who survived Saturday’s shooting, said Monday that it would be his ‘honor’ to welcome President Trump to Pittsburgh despite remarks from other Jewish leaders and members of the congregation that they do not want him there

David Dvir stands in front of his business, Murray Avenue Locksmith, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He voted for Donald Trump and doesn't agree with Jewish leaders who say the president shouldn't come

David Dvir stands in front of his business, Murray Avenue Locksmith, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He voted for Donald Trump and doesn’t agree with Jewish leaders who say the president shouldn’t come

Kristin Wessell, right, hands a bouquet of flowers to Marianne Novy on Monday; neither woman thinks President Trump should come to town

Kristin Wessell, right, hands a bouquet of flowers to Marianne Novy on Monday; neither woman thinks President Trump should come to town

Dvir, 52, the owner of Murray Avenue Locksmith in Squirrel Hill, said of Trump, ‘I think he made some mistakes, but he is a great president.’ He added that it would be ‘a shame’ if the community protested the president’s visit.

Asked Monday if Trump has done enough to condemn white nationalism, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president ‘has denounced racism, hatred and bigotry in all forms on a number of occasions.’

She added: ‘Some individuals – they’re grieving, they’re hurting. The president wants to be there to show the support of this administration for the Jewish community. The rabbi said that he is welcome as well.’

Local and religious leaders were divided on whether Trump should visit. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, told reporters ahead of the announced visit that the White House ought to consult with the families of the victims about their preferences and asked that the president not come during a funeral.

Holocaust survivor Shulamit Bastacky, 77, sits in the lobby of her apartment building in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. Bastacky was friends with Melvin Wax, one of the victims

Holocaust survivor Shulamit Bastacky, 77, sits in the lobby of her apartment building in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. Bastacky was friends with Melvin Wax, one of the victims

‘If the president is looking to come to Pittsburgh, I would ask that he not do so while we are burying the dead,’ Peduto said. ‘Our attention and our focus is going to be on them, and we don’t have public safety that we can take away from what is needed in order to do both.’

But Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who was conducting Sabbath services at the Tree of Life synagogue when the shooter opened fire, made clear the president would be welcome, telling CNN: ‘The president of the United States is always welcome. I am a citizen. He is my president. He is certainly welcome.’

Shulamit Bastacky, 77, a Holocaust survivor and neighbor of victim Melvin Wax, expressed hope that fraught political issues and protests would not overshadow the remembrances.

‘This is not the place to do it,’ she said. ‘You can do the political part everywhere else. Not at this time. This would be like desecrating those people who were killed. They were murdered because they were Jews.’

‘You can protest later on,’ she added. ‘To me it’s sacred what happened here.’

THE VICTIMS OF THE PITTSBURGH MASSACRE

Bernice and Sylvan Simon, aged 84 and 86

Bernice and Sylvan Simon, aged 84 and 86

Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86 

The Simons, who had been married for 62 years, were sitting in the back of the main sanctuary when the gunman opened fire. Sylvan, a retired accountant, was still recovering from recently breaking his arm and the couple had no time to escape. 

They have two adult sons and grandchildren. They were memorialized as pillars of the community who regularly helped out and would do ‘anything’ for their friends. 

Richard Gottfried, 65

Richard Gottfried, 65

The pair got married in the Tree of Life in 1956 in a candlelit ceremony.  

Richard Gottfried, 65

Gottfried was preparing to retire from his dental practice and enjoy the next chapter of his life with his wife Peg. 

He helped out at the synagogue, making sure the rabbis had everything they needed to lead services. 

‘He died doing what he liked to do most,’ said Don Salvin, Gottfried’s brother-in-law said.  

Rose Mallinger, 97

Rose Mallinger, 97

Rose was the oldest of the victims. She was also in the main sanctuary when she was gunned down. 

She was among the most devout and was who immediately sprang to the minds of others when they heard about the shooting. 

‘You’ve never met a more vivacious 97-year-old. 

‘She was just so full of life. She had so much energy,’ Brian Schreiber, another member of the congregation, told The Post Gazzette. 

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz was eulogized by his medical practice partner who said: ‘He is one of the finest people I’ve ever met. 

‘We’ve been in practice together for 30 years and friends longer than that. 

‘His patients are going to miss him terribly. His family is going to miss him terribly and I am going to miss him. He was just one of the kindest, finest people.’  

Cecil Rosenthal, 59, David Rosenthal, 54

Brothers Cecil, 59, (right) and David (left) Rosenthal 54

Brothers Cecil, 59, (right) and David (left) Rosenthal 54

Brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal both suffered disabilities and were regular volunteers at the synagogue. 

On Saturday, they were preparing food for breakfast in the basement kitchen when they were attacked. 

The pair lived together nearby. They were remembered fondly by the congregation’s rabbi. 

‘Cecil and David had a love for life and for those around them. 

‘They loved their community. They spent a lot of time at the Tree of Life, never missing a Saturday,’ Chris Schopf, vice president of residential supports for ACHIEVA, an organization which helps manage the community home where they lived. 

Daniel Stein, 71

Daniel Stein, 71

Daniel Stein, 71

Stein was another fixture in the Jewish community. Friends said he was proud of his faith and that it was important to him and his family. 

On Sunday, his adult son Joe said it was the ‘worst day of his life’ discovering he was among the dead. 

‘My dad’s life was taken at the Tree of Life shooting. My mom, sister and I are absolutely devastated and crushed. 

‘Our lives now are going to have to take a different path, one that we thought would not happen for a long time. 

‘My dad was a simple man and did not require much,’ he said, sharing a photograph of him with one of his grandchildren. 

 Melvin Wax, 88

 Melvin Wax, 88

Melvin Wax, 88

Melvin was one of three people who were killed downstairs. He was hiding in a closet with others from the New Light congregation when he went back into the room they had been in because he could no longer hear gunshots. 

That is when he was confronted by the gunman and was shot three times. 

Barry Werber, who had been hiding with him in the closet and survived, said he was a ‘gentleman’ who was always the first to arrive for services.

‘He was a gem. He was a gentleman . There was always a smile on his face,’ he said. 

Irving Younger, 69, was also killed

Irving Younger, 69, was also killed

Irving Younger, 69

Younger was a father and a grandfather. His neighbors have told how he ‘never had an unkind word’ to say about anyone. 

‘He was the most wonderful dad and grandpa. He talked about his daughter and his grandson, always, and he never had an unkind word to say about anybody,’ neighbor Tina Prizner told The Tribune Press. 

He went every day to the synagogue, where he was an usher, she said.

Joyce Fienberg, 75

Joyce Fienberg, 75

‘He was so kind. He was a beautiful person, a beautiful soul.’

Joyce Fienberg, 75

Widow Joyce Fienberg was a retired university researcher who left her job in 2008.

Former colleagues paid tribute to her as ‘magnificent, generous, caring and profoundly thoughtful.’ 

Her husband Stephen died after a battle with cancer in 2016. 

She has two sons and several grandchildren. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.