Killed Because of Faith

By Shelby Anderson

In today’s news random acts of violence and terrorism grace almost every corner of daily news from almost every platform of communication. News channels, newspapers, social media, and other mediums all report these terrible accidents, it is never hard to find a news story about a shooting or any other act of violence floating around social media. Sadly another shooting has happened. Whether it be a school shooting or an act of terrorism in a public crowd, the occurrence is becoming more prevalent. Squirrel Hill, a predominantly Jewish community in Pittsburgh, PA personally experienced this tragedy early Saturday morning.

On October 27th, forty-six year old Robert D. Bowers entered the Tree of Life Synagogue at 9:50 am in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and opened fire on innocent victims. Members of the synagogue were attending Shabbat services when Bowers entered and began shooting. Pittsburgh authorities and local FBI investigators confirm that Bowers was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and three other handguns, all of which were used in the shooting. 11 innocent victims are left dead, 6 more suffering injuries, 4 of which are police officers. No children were injured or killed in the shooting, but the families of the victims are still grieving the loss of friends and family members.

Recent activity on Bower’s social media suggests that this shooting was both planned and an anti-semitic hate crime. The Gab which is a less-known social media platform was Bower’s website of choice. This website allows you to post multi-media messages up to 300 characters long. Law enforcement and FBI investigators released messages posted by Bowers that are clearly targeting Jews and their beliefs. Also on his social media, and in interviews with local investigators Bowers claimed his loyalty to Neo-Nazism and screamed obnoxiously that he “Just wanted to kill the jews.” FBI investigators are now focused on uncovering the motives behind Bowers gruesome hate crime. Authorities believe Bowers could have been targeting Dor Hadash, which is a Jewish reconstructionist group that meets in a rented space within the synagogue. Dor Hadash is known to be associated with HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) which is an organization primarily focused on financially aiding Jewish refugees. In a public announcement, lead FBI special agent, Bob Jones, said the following:

“This is the most horrific crime scene I have seen in 22 years at the Federal Bureau of Investigation...Members of the Tree of Life synagogue — a place of worship — were brutally murdered by a gunman simply because of their faith.”

Jones also confirmed that Bowers had posted hateful messages about the Honduran Caravan that is quickly approaching the border of the United States. Bowers theorized that Jewish people were also providing financial aid to immigrants wanting to enter the country that were not of the Jewish faith. All of these confirmations are crucial pieces of evidence leading up to the final story of the synagogue shooting, motives for the shooting, and putting the shooter behind bars.

According to members of the congregation, the first shot was fired at approximately 9:54 a.m. Bystanders inside the synagogue say he entered the building and began shooting without preference. The first 911 call from inside the building was received four minutes after the shooter entered the building. 911 dispatchers recall hearing a minimum of at least 30 gun shots in the background. A brief ten minutes after the attack began, first responders and law enforcement arrived at the scene. Officers immediately came in contact with Bowers, which was exiting the building at the time the officers arrived. Bowers and the two officers exchanged gunfire. One officer received a gunshot wound to the hand and the other received shrapnel wounds from broken glass. The officers, pinned down at the time, claimed that Bowers had an automatic assault weapon. SWAT was called to the scene, where they rescued two critically injured elderly people from the disaster. SWAT team officials told law enforcement that they saw several empty magazine clips and dead bodies while searching for Bowers. Roughly 40 minutes after the attack began, SWAT found Bowers on the third floor of the building, he shot two officers multiple times, one received critical injuries. More than an hour and twenty minutes after the attack began, Bowers was cornered and talked into surrendering before being taken into custody. The gunman received multiple gunshot wounds, all of which he was treated for, and all of which he survived. While being interrogated, Bowers repeatedly screamed of his desire to kill Jews and how they were committing genocide to his people. Bowers has since been charged with over 60 counts of federal and state level charges. These charges include federal civil rights charges, and obstructing religious exercise resulting in death.

In the wake of this nightmare the people of Pittsburgh are desperately awaiting justice. The families of the victims and citizens of Pittsburgh are grieving the loss of eleven amazing people, each with their own unique story. Even though Pittsburgh may seem broken and damaged, the people of the city are regrouping and using this terrible shooting as a way of honoring the lives of some of the most influential people they knew, and sharing these stories with people who would like to know.

Listed below are the names of the victims. Real people with real lives, ages ranging from 54-97, a 43 year difference between the oldest and youngest victim. Precious lives that were all important, simply killed because of their faith.

Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting Victims:

David Rosenthal, 54

Cecil Rosenthal, 59

Richard Gottfried, 65

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Irving Younger, 69

Daniel Stein, 71

Joyce Feinberg, 75

Bernice Simon, 84

Sylvan Simon, 86

Melvin Wax, 88

Rose Malinger, 97

Please take a moment to remember these victims and their families during this time of grief.

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