Pittsburgh’s Jewish leaders to Trump: Stay away until you denounce white nationalism

Their letter said: "You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.”
October 29, 2018, 1:53pm
Pittsburgh’s Jewish leaders to Trump: Stay away until you denounce white nationalism

Nearly 20,000 people are siding with Pittsburgh’s Jewish leaders in an open letter demanding that President Trump stay away from Steel City until he fully denounces white nationalism and quits policies that harm immigrants and minority groups.

The letter was written and signed by members of Pittsburgh’s arm of Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish organization, in light of the massacre of 11 Jewish people at the local Tree of Life synagogue Saturday during Shabbat morning services.

“For the past three years, your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the members of the local Bend the Arc group wrote. “You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.”

The letter blames Trump for stoking anti-Jewish sentiment, and says he’s “not welcome” in Pittsburgh. Trump is planning to travel to the city to address the attack he called an “assault on humanity,” via Twitter.

While the president has denounced anti-Semitism, he hasn’t gone as far as condemning a white supremacist movement that has harbored racism and at times encouraged violence against minority groups. Instead, he blamed the “Fake News” in a tweet Monday morning for “the division and hatred that has been going on for so long in our Country,” adding, “actually, it is their Fake & Dishonest reporting which is causing problems far greater than they understand!”

Similarly, Ivanka Trump’s head rabbi once expressed that he was “deeply troubled” by Trump’s lack of response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last year.

President Trump was also quick to say the shooting might have been a “different situation” if the synagogue had had an armed guard, echoing the response he given after other mass shootings. That suggestion was disputed by Pittsburgh’s mayor, Bill Peduto.

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The man suspected of carrying out the deadly mass shooting Saturday, 46-year-old Pittsburgh resident Robert Bowers, expressed anti-Semitic and racist views on the social media website Gab. He is said to have shouted “all Jews must die” before opening fire with three pistols and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle on the Squirrel Hill synagogue. Bowers is expected to appear in court Monday on at least 23 state charges, including homicide, attempted homicide and aggravated assault against police officers, plus an additional 29 federal charges, according to the [Washington Post.

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“We feel like there have been multiple communities under attack in the United States from the vitriol that the president has been spreading,” Josh Friedman, a leader of Bend the Arc’s Pittsburgh chapter, told the Washington Post. “It was the Jewish community’s turn. Blowback from his words came and cost people’s lives, and we said enough is enough.”

Cover: Clifford Pearlman, of Center City, is among the hundreds attending an Interfaith Vigil of Solidarity and Hope at Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in commemoration of the anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)