Tragic shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh


Vigil for the Tree of Life syngogogue (Anna Creech/Flickr)

Sammy Rubin, Arts and Culture Editor

On October 27, a devastating massacre occurred at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The congregants were in the middle of an ordinary baby naming ceremony, when Robert Bowers stormed into the synagogue and started firing his gun. As he ambushed the synagogue, he screamed anti-semitic remarks such as “all Jews must die.” Police arrived at the scene and forced Bowers to surrender. Bowers is facing 29 charges including two counts of hate crimes: the obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and the obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in harm to a public safety officer. He is also facing 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder. The outcome of this case may result in the death penalty.


The shooting resulted in death of the following people:

  • Richard Gottfried, 65
  • Rose Mallinger, 9
  • Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
  • Cecil Rosenthal, 59
  • David Rosenthal, 54
  • Bernice Simon, 84
  • Sylvan Simon, 86
  • Daniel Stein, 71
  • Melvin Wax, 88
  • Irving Younger, 69

When the shooter surprised the members at their synagogue, they were forced to find ways to survive. Two congregants were lucky enough to escape by hiding in a room of boxes and another room with bags of clothes. Once the shooter went quiet, they quickly rushed towards the exit to elude the situation at hand.

Weber students were among those affected. Junior Alexandra Cohen had a connection to some of the victims of the shooting. “I know a bunch of people from the Pittsburgh area that are Jewish through BBYO (Jewish youth group) and international trips. Three of them go to that synagogue. My friend Jacob was visiting Pittsburgh for a sports game. His aunt and uncle ended up going to that synagogue and his uncle got shot.” His uncle, Richard Gottfried, unfortunately died from the bullet wounds he suffered.

Funerals were held for the victims from October 30 to November 2. People continue to commemorate the lives lost in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. 

On Monday, October 29, Weber students decided to wear blue clothing to mourn the people that perished in this disturbing event. The act of wearing blue united the Weber community for an important cause.

Not only Jews, but people of all religions are helping out and sending support. Organized by Piece by Piece director Brendan Murphy, The Marist School sent over 800 signatures and notes to Weber students and faculty to console them during this tough time. Even though they are a Catholic school, Marist still understands that this act of anti-semitism is a big blow to a Jewish school.

The Marist School’s letters to Weber (Sammy Rubin/TheRamPage)

Young Jews are making their presence heard during this dark time. Ben Ragals, a sophomore at The Weber School, shared that “[he] went to a Friday night service alongside people who were not Jewish and The Temple congregants and NFTY SAR(Jewish youth group). [They] discussed what happened. People gave inspiring speeches such as some of [his] NFTY friends.” CNN printed a transcript of the speech made by his friend, Lucy Adelman.

Alexandra Cohen asserts that “showing love for the Pittsburgh community is all they need to do at the moment.” Being sympathetic towards those that are affected is one way to make a difference.

The weekend following the incident, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta held a solidarity Shabbat to stand with Pittsburgh. This event honored the lives lost and used communal strength to expel bigotry. They didn’t let this hate bring them down because this Shabbat was a time of grace and happiness.

Coming less than a week after the Pittsburgh shooting, another anti-semitic act transpired in Brooklyn, New York on November 2. There were a series of attacks on local Jewish synagogues and schools. James Polite, a known anti-semite, is suspected to be the criminal who executed these attacks. He set fires that did not result in any deaths but vandalized property, which, along with scaring people because of their religion, is illegal. Acts like these are examples of the 60 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents from 2016 to 2017. This is a terrifying pattern that needs to stop.

The shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue has changed the mindset of some Jews when they attend their synagogues. Weber junior Darcy Deneen expressed that “it scared [her] as a Jew because the places that they say are the safest places, aren’t safe anymore…I’m constantly thinking ‘what would I do if this happened to me?’” As people attend places of worship, many keep eyes in the back of their head, since they don’t know what this scary world has to offer.