The Pittsburgh rabbi who said he would be honored to welcome President Trump to the city after surviving an attack on his synagogue has received hate mail for the comments, he revealed on Tuesday.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers was leading prayer services in the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue on Tuesday when gunman Robert Bowers opened fire.
Bowers, an anti-semitic trucker, slaughtered eight of Myers’ elderly congregants with an AR-15 and three handguns, then killed another three men who were part of a different congregation in the basement. The rabbi survived by fleeing to a bathroom where he hid, holding the door closed ‘with all his might’ until he was rescued by SWAT.
On Monday, as other survivors denounced the president and Jewish groups circulated an open letter telling him he was not welcome in Pittsburgh, Rabbi Myers spoke out to say he would be happy to meet Trump or any sitting president of the United States.
He revealed on Tuesday morning that he has since been inundated with abuse for saying so.
‘When I first said that the president was welcome, I’ve received a lot of emails, too numerous to count, I’ve received many that are not happy with those words.
‘Those emails also contain hate. It just continues in this vicious cycle. We need to be better than this.
‘We can be better than this,’ he told CNN.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers revealed on Tuesday that he has received hate mail for saying he would welcome President Trump to Pittsburgh. The president will arrive in Pittsburgh at 4pm on Tuesday
Trump will visit the city on Tuesday with the First Lady. They are scheduled to arrive at 4pm.
Rabbi Myers has no plan to meet with the couple, he said, because his attention will be on the family of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, one of his congregants whose funeral he is presiding over.
‘I have no plans at this time for any involvement. My attention will be the family. I have a funeral and I must tend to their needs. That’s where my attention will be,’ he said.
On Monday, he said: ‘It would be my honor to always meet a president of the United States.
These are good decent people. They didn’t have an ounce of hate in any of them.
‘We turn to the leaders of our country, we’ve got to stop hate. It can’t just be to say, we need to do, we need to act to tone down a rhetoric.’
Rabbi Myers has described in painstaking detail how he was forced to flee the main sanctuary when Bowers opened fire on Tuesday.
‘We started 9.45 and the regulars are there, these good decent people. Within a few minutes I heard what I thought was the crashing metal of one of the coat racks and I thought one of our seniors maybe lost his or her balance and pulled on it to right themselves and fell, god forbid, or something, ‘ he said in a harrowing account of the events to Good Morning America yesterday.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers was leading prayers in the main sanctuary when the gunman burst in. He got the people in the front to safety but could not save the eight victims in the back. He told on Monday how he was forced to flee as he heard the gunman approach and ran to a bathroom upstairs to hide. The door was locked so he held it closed ‘with all his might’ and prayed that Bowers would not find him until SWAT teams rescued him and told him to run across the road. That is when this picture was taken of Myers, still wrapped in his prayer shawl
‘At that moment, three members of Dor Hadash, one of the congregations we house in our building, I saw them run downstairs.
‘That’s when the next hail of bullets rang out within another 10 or 15 seconds. Though I’ve never personally witnessed or heard gunfire until this moment, something inside told me, this is gunfire.
‘I quickly told my congregants to just drop to the floor, be quiet, don’t say a word. I thought, the pews are thick old wood… perhaps there’s some protection there.’
Myers was able to get the people closest to him out through doors at the front of the sanctuary but he could not save those who were further to the back.
Choking back tears, he described having to leave them and run for his own life.
Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue at 9.45am on Saturday and turned left into the main sanctuary first, killing eight people there before going to the basement. He then tried to leave but was confronted by cops on his way out and retreated back into the building and fled upstairs to the third floor where he was eventually taken into custody
‘I tried to see if i could get the remaining people who were in the back of the congregation but I could tell the gunfire was getting louder.
‘I couldn’t save those eight people,’ he said.
He fled upstairs, into the choir loft, and listened as Bowers murdered those who had no time to escape.
‘I heard him execute my congregants. I couldn’t watch,’ he said.
He had his cell phone on him, something he had been taught to do by a security expert, and was the first person to call 911.
He stayed on the phone as he ran to safety upstairs and hid in a bathroom. To his horror when he got inside, the door was locked.
‘With all my might, I just held on to the door and prayed to God, “Don’t find me.” After what seemed like an eternity, SWAT came and rescued me but at that point they had not caught him, he was still at large in the facility.
‘They had me run across the street so that’s probably that photo, the 15-minutes-of-fame photo, of me running across the street with my prayer shawl on,’ he said.
While Myers shares the view that action must be taken, his hospitable attitude towards the president is in sharp contrast to that of Bend the Arc, a Jewish activist organization which issued a petition on Saturday which explicitly told Trump: ‘You are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.’
Bend the Arc, a Jewish activist organization, issued this open letter to the president on Saturday on behalf of its ‘Pittsburgh leaders’
Some members of the Tree of Life share the view including former president Lynnette Lederman who said: ‘I do not welcome this President to my city.
‘The hypocritical words that come from him tell me nothing.
‘We have very, very strong leadership in this city. We have a very strong mayor with very strong values, a very strong county executive in Rich Fitzgerald.
Robert Bowers, 46, was charged with 29 counts – including 22 which carry the death penalty
‘We have people who stand by us, who believed in values — not just Jewish values, but believe in values — and those are not the values of this President and I do not welcome him to Pittsburgh.’
Barry Werber, who hid from the gunman on Saturday in a closet as he rained bullets on his friends, said he did not want Trump to visit.
‘I hope he doesn’t. I hope he doesn’t. We have no use for him. It’s part of his program to instigate his base.
‘He’s calling himself a nationalist. The last political group that I heard call themselves nationalists were Nazis,’ he said.
In an open letter to Trump, Bend the Arc accused Trump of fueling hatred and indirectly contributing to the massacre.
‘For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement.
‘You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.’
‘Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country,’ the letter read.
‘President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering all minorities.’
THE VICTIMS OF THE PITTSBURGH MASSACRE
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
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
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 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
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 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
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
‘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.