On Saturday, Oct. 27, Robert D. Bowers entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh yelling anti-Semitic slurs and opened fire. Bowers had an AR-15 style rifle and a minimum of three handguns. This act of violence was the most recent and most deadly action of anti-Semitism in the United States. Bowers has been charged with 29 criminal counts federally and he is still waiting for state charges. Even though Bowers had no previous criminal charges, he posted multiple anti-Semitic theories and slurs on Gab, a social network that is popular among white supremacists and alt-right radicals.
President Trump responded to the shooting while at the Future Farmers of America Convention. Trump referred to the hate crime as a “wicked act of mass murder.” He continued,, “If there were an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop them” and “maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him frankly.” Trump’s statement included no condemnation of anti-Semitism though.
Members of the Pittsburgh community have come together after this tragedy with a candlelight vigil. Not only did people in Pittsburgh come together, but people across the country did as well: multiple services were held around Minnesota. In South Minneapolis, there was a service held for the Jewish community. Also, an interfaith vigil was held in St. Paul. Jewish students in Edina were affected by the shooting as well, not only did they verbally support the Jewish community, they also posted support on Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media.
Sophomore Lauren Brull expressed how this hate crime has affected her and her family, “The Pittsburgh shooting affected my life because I have a few living Holocaust survivors left in my family and having such a hateful crime happen in today’s society brought lots of traumatizing memories back to the surface. But going to the synagogue and being with the rest of the Jewish community here in Edina brought back the sense of community and comfort.”
Another student, Sophomore Olivia Blumenthal, who religiously identifies as a Unitarian Universalist, which is a liberal religion that focuses on the equality of all faiths, disclosed how this act has affected her life, “I think that it creates a lot of fear in different groups of people and I think that people shouldn’t have to live in fear of practicing religion.”
Blumenthal also indicated how she believed the government should have reacted to the situation, “I feel like they should’ve reacted in some way. I just feel like it was minor and it didn’t seem like it was important to the government and I feel like this is a huge, important part of our country and should be recognized more than it was.”
Additionally, Blumenthal also spoke out against anti-Semitism, “I think that just in a lot of different ways our country could do a lot better because we’re supposed to be able to practice our religion freely and it seems that a lot of people are being prevented from that fundamental ability to practice their faith and that should not be the case.”