▶ At­tack has be­come the fo­cus of a fierce de­bate on white na­tion­al­ism

The National - News - - NEWS | WORLD -

Pitts­burgh was to hold three more fu­ner­als yes­ter­day for Jewish vic­tims of a shoot­ing ram­page at a syn­a­gogue, which has be­come the fo­cus of a fierce po­lit­i­cal de­bate about white na­tion­al­ism and anti-Semitism.

Eleven wor­ship­pers were gunned down on Satur­day morn­ing by a man who stormed into the Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue and opened fire, yelling: “All Jews must die” and other ob­scen­i­ties.

It was be­lieved to be the dead­li­est at­tack on Jews in the US in re­cent his­tory and came be­fore next week’s mid-term elec­tions.

Fu­ner­als were to be held for Melvin Wax, 88, who was lead­ing Sab­bath ser­vices when the at­tack be­gan, re­tired prop­erty agent Irv­ing Younger, 69, and re­tired univer­sity re­searcher Joyce Fien­berg, 75.

Mourn­ers be­gan show­ing up in grey, cool weather hours be­fore Fien­berg’s mid­morn­ing funeral at the Beth Shalom Syn­a­gogue as po­lice blocked off sur­round­ing streets.

The early crowd was lighter than the one for the Tues­day funeral of broth­ers Ce­cil and David Rosen­thal, widely known and praised as “the helpers” at Tree of Life.

The af­ter­math of the tragedy per­vaded life in the Squir­rel Hill neigh­bour­hood, home to the Tree of Life.

In cof­fee shops, cus­tomers talked about the vic­tims they knew. In the street, friends em­braced and com­forted one an­other dur­ing the pe­riod of raw grief.

The syn­a­gogue at­tack has height­ened a na­tional de­bate over US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s speeches, which crit­ics say have con­trib­uted to a surge in white-na­tion­al­ist and neo-Nazi ac­tiv­ity. His ad­min­is­tra­tion de­nies he has en­cour­aged far-right ex­trem­ism and is try­ing to unify Amer­ica.

Mr Trump vis­ited the Tree of Life as the first fu­ner­als for vic­tims were held on Tues­day. Thou­sands protested against his pres­ence in the city, ac­cus­ing him of us­ing speech that has fu­elled anti-Semitism in Amer­ica.

Sev­eral thou­sand pro­test­ers, an eth­ni­cally mixed crowd of all ages, held an anti-Trump rally about a block away from the syn­a­gogue as his visit be­gan, singing Old Tes­ta­ment psalms and car­ry­ing signs with such slo­gans as: “We build bridges not walls.”

Mr Trump made no com­ments dur­ing his visit, but wrote on Twit­ter yes­ter­day morn­ing that his of­fice had been “shown great re­spect on a very sad and solemn day” in Pitts­burgh.

“Small protest was not seen by us, staged far away,” he tweeted. “The Fake News sto­ries were just the op­po­site. Dis­grace­ful.”

More than 1,800 peo­ple paid their re­spects on Tues­day at Rodef Shalom, an­other syn­a­gogue in Squir­rel Hill, the heart of the city’s Jewish com­mu­nity.

Mr Trump’s visit came seven days be­fore elec­tions that will de­ter­mine whether his Repub­li­can Party main­tains con­trol of both houses of Congress or whether the Democrats seize ma­jor­ity in one both.

The gun­man in the syn­a­gogue at­tack, Robert Bow­ers, was charged on Mon­day with 29 fed­eral felony counts in­clud­ing hate crimes.

Four days after the at­tack, nerves in Squir­rel Hill were still frayed. A pub­lic school was placed on lock­down after an un­sub­stan­ti­ated re­port that a gun had been taken there.

Jodi Smith, a Pitts­burgh na­tive, joined mourn­ers be­fore the Wax funeral at the Ralph Schugar Chapel and re­mem­bered him as a “very po­lite, gen­tle man”.

“I could have claimed him as a fa­ther,” Ms Smith said. “He was al­ways at the syn­a­gogue, al­ways help­ing out.

“The syn­a­gogue had been his life since his wife passed away a few years ago.”

Fien­berg spent 25 years as a re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh’s Learn­ing Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre un­til she re­tired in 2008.

“She was an en­gag­ing, el­e­gant, and warm per­son,” the cen­tre said on Face­book.

Younger, whose funeral will also be at Rodef Shalom, was re­mem­bered as a dot­ing grand­fa­ther.

Pro­test­ers against US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s visit to the Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue on Tues­day

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