By Jessica Resnick-Ault and Steve Holland
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday visited the Pittsburgh synagogue attacked by an anti-Semitic gunman and lit candles for every of the 11 slain worshipers, whereas 1000’s protested his presence within the metropolis and victims’ households started burying their useless.
The presidential journey, which sources stated congressional leaders of each events declined to affix, got here as Trump drew widespread disapproval for inflammatory rhetoric that critics stated could have helped provoke the deadliest assault ever on American Jewry.
Shrugging off public assertions from Pittsburgh Mayor Invoice Peduto that Trump’s go to was ill-timed, the president entered the Tree of Life temple the place Saturday’s capturing rampage occurred, accompanied by first woman Melania Trump.
They had been greeted by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who led them contained in the temple to mild ritual yahrzeit candles in reminiscence of the victims. Rising about 18 minutes later, the couple walked to a memorial exterior the constructing, the place the primary woman positioned a flower and the president positioned a small stone on a marker for every of the useless.
Trump, who in line with press secretary Sarah Sanders, described his go to as “very humbling and unhappy,” left in his motorcade after about 30 minutes on the synagogue.
He made no public remarks.
“He needed at this time to be about exhibiting respect for the households and the chums of the victims in addition to for Jewish Individuals,” Sanders stated.
A number of thousand protesters, an ethnically combined crowd of all ages together with members of Pittsburgh’s tight-knit Jewish neighborhood, held an anti-Trump rally a couple of block away from the synagogue simply as his go to started, singing Previous Testomony psalms and carrying indicators with slogans equivalent to “We construct bridges not partitions.”
A lot of their indicators carried slogans and imagery invoking one in every of Squirrel Hill’s most well-known residents, the late Fred Rogers, whose long-running youngsters’s tv present “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” featured classes on friendship and kindness. Their march began on the road the place he grew up and ended on the church the place he belonged.
WEEK BEFORE ELECTIONS
Trump additionally went to a metropolis hospital and visited three cops, wounded in a gunfight with the capturing suspect, and their households.
Sanders stated Trump additionally frolicked with the spouse of one of many slain congregants, Richard Gottfried, 65. “She stated she needed to satisfy the president to let him know that they needed him there.”
Trump’s go to to Pennsylvania’s second-largest metropolis got here simply seven days earlier than nationwide elections that can decide whether or not his Republican Celebration will preserve management of each homes of Congress or whether or not the Democrats will seize a majority in a single chamber or each.
The president and his spouse had been joined by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, his daughter and son-in-law, who’re Jewish and function White Home advisers, and by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who can also be Jewish.
The primary funerals for the victims of the assault had been held earlier on Tuesday. Greater than 1,800 folks, some from throughout america, got here to pay respects to family of David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59, at Rodef Shalom, one other synagogue within the Squirrel Hill district that varieties the center of the town’s Jewish neighborhood. Law enforcement officials had been posted exterior the temple.
The 2 brothers, who lived at a house for folks with disabilities, had been among the many 11 largely aged congregants killed when a gunman stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue and opened fireplace on worshipers, yelling: “All Jews should die.”
The accused gunman, Robert Bowers, 46, was charged on Monday with 29 federal felony counts, together with hate crimes, and will face the dying penalty if convicted.
The assault has heightened a nationwide debate over Trump’s rhetoric, which critics say has contributed to a surge in white nationalist and neo-Nazi exercise. The Trump administration has rejected the notion he has inspired far-right extremists who’ve embraced him.
‘WORDS HAVE MEANING’
However protest organizers stated Trump’s frequent tweets in regards to the caravans of Central American migrants touring by way of Mexico en path to america could have been a consider frightening Saturday’s bloodshed. They famous that Trump had characterised the caravans as an “invasion” whereas falsely stating they harbored terrorists and had been financed partially by Democrats and the Jewish philanthropist George Soros.
In a social media put up on Saturday, Bowers referred to the Hebrew Immigrant Support Society, a Jewish refugee support group, as serving to to “convey invaders in that kill our folks,” declaring: “I am unable to sit by and watch my folks get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I am getting in.”
Protest organizers in an announcement saying their rally, stated the gunman “believed anti-Semitic lies that Jews had been funding the caravan.”
The announcement echoed an open letter from a bunch of native Jewish leaders who instructed Trump: “You aren’t welcome in Pittsburgh till you absolutely denounce white nationalism.”
Greater than 78,000 folks have signed the letter, organized and posted on-line by the Pittsburgh chapter of Bend the Arc, a Jewish group against what it calls “the immoral agenda of the Trump administration and the Republican Celebration.”
(Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Steve Holland; Extra reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan in Washington; Writing by Steve Gorman; Modifying by Invoice Tarrant, Cynthia Osterman and Peter Cooney)