America is in mourning after a gunman opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday morning, killing eleven of the worshippers that were present. On Saturday, October 27, Robert Bowers of Baldwin, Pennsylvania entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh during a service and opened fire with handguns and a rifle, and according to the Washington Post, he spouted his desire to “kill Jews.” Police quickly arrived at the scene, and both police and Bowers were wounded in a gun fight.
He slaughtered eleven people in his rampage – aging from 54 to 97. This attack marks the deadliest attack on Jews on U.S. soil in history. Most of the people gathered at the synagogue for a naming ceremony, which is a religious practice that marks the beginning of an infant’s path in Jewish faith and culture. The first funeral arrangements were held Tuesday and will be continued throughout the week.
Little is known about Bowers. According to his neighbors, he was rarely seen and had a very “bland” personality. He was a truck driver for a living. However, his digital fingerprint told a much different story. In his social media, he often posted anti-Semitic and racist rants. He compared Jews to Satan and used slurs towards women who had relationships with black men. He also blamed Jews for transporting members of the migrant caravans – referring to HIAS, which is a Jewish program that assists refugees.
After Bowers’ attack, he was transported to a local hospital where he his wounds were treated. During his stay, he spewed more anti-Semitic rants even as some of the doctors and nurses treating him were Jewish. While being escorted by members of a SWAT team, he apparently screamed that he wished that “all Jews would die.”
Initially he was indicted with 29 felonies. However, on Wednesday after a hearing, a federal grand jury indicted him on 44 counts, 32 of which are punishable by the death penalty. Federal prosecutors have told that they plan to pursue the death penalty for Bowers, and President Trump has advocated for the same punishment.
Additionally, the attack has been met with rebuke by leaders all across America. It is widely condemned and considered to be an act out of hatred. Pittsburgh recently held a memorial for the victims, and President Trump has called for the flag to be held at half-stand to honor them.
On the brighter side of things, a Muslim community has been fundraising to cover the funeral expenses for the eleven that died in the attack. Apparently, they wanted to provide more than just “thoughts and prayers,” and instead offer decisive action for a hurting community. Initially, they requested $25,000 to cover the expenses, but that request was fulfilled within six hours. Within 48 hours, the Muslim group had raised over $150,000. In combination with other fundraisers, over $600,000 had been raised.
One of America’s founding beliefs is that Americans can worship freely without fear of persecution. The attack on the Jewish community was a direct assault on that belief, but if anything good can come out of this tragedy, it is the grief that binds America together in unity.