Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Tree of Life rabbi to express condolences, appreciation


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with Tree of Life Congregation Rabbi Jeffrey Myers.

Netanyahu reached out to the rabbi last Friday, the last day of funerals for the 11 victims of the shooting in the synagogue building.

‏‎‏”I called Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life synagogue to send once again my condolences to the bereaved families and to express my appreciation for the dignified way that he has represented the Jewish community of Pittsburgh in the wake of this horrific attack on Jews,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued on Saturday night by his office.

“I want to thank all the leaders in the United States and around the world who have condemned this horrendous anti-Semitic attack,” the statement said. “I want to thank President Trump for going with his family to pay their respects to the dead and to visit the wounded, and for his powerful statement that ‘those seeking their [the Jewish people’s] destruction – we will seek their destruction.'”

Myers told CNN after Trump’s visit to the synagogue building that he “was pleasantly surprised by a warm and personal side to the president that I don’t think America has ever seen.” He said that Trump was empathetic, “very warm and very consoling.”

On Saturday, during a short sermon to hundreds of Jews who gathered for a Shabbat service at a Conservative synagogue near the building that is closed because it is still considered a crime scene, Myers said that he told Trump hateful rhetoric by politicians led to the attack at his synagogue. He also said he was saddened by criticism he has received from fellow Jews who were upset that he met with Trump.

Trump visited Pittsburgh two days after the attack despite requests from local authorities that he refrain for several more days. But Myers said at the time that Trump is “always welcome. I’m a citizen. He’s my president. He’s certainly welcome.”

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