How American Jewish groups are reacting to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter’s sentence


(JTA) — American Jewish organizations reacted to the news that Robert Bowers, the man who murdered 11 Jews at prayer in 2018, has been sentenced to death. Groups stressed in their comments that the memory of the victims should remain paramount. Many also expressed gratitude that the shooter’s devastating crime was treated with the gravity it deserved. 

Below is a rundown of statements, in whole or in part, from Jewish organizations in response to Wednesday’s verdict:

American Jewish Committee: “As we collectively process the jury’s decision today, what should always be top of mind is the memory of the eleven people murdered in a synagogue while at prayer by a cold-blooded hater of Jews. Ultimately what is of most significance is not how the shooter will spend the end of his life, but the fact that the U.S. government pursued this case with vigor and demonstrated that such crimes will not be countenanced, excused, or minimized.”

World Jewish Congress: “Today’s decision represents a measure of justice for the slaughter of 11 Jewish worshippers on that fateful day in 2018 at the Tree of Life synagogue. Nothing can ever bring back the people killed in the attack, the deadliest act of antisemitism in the history of the United States. The jury’s decision is a stark reminder to remain vigilant about countering antisemitism, wherever it may hide. I call on American leaders to amplify their efforts to protect Jewish communities across the country so that such a tragedy never again takes place.”

Secure Community Network: “This sentence sends a message to violent extremists, terrorists, and antisemites everywhere that the United States will not tolerate hate and violence against the Jewish people, nor any people of faith. Though nothing will replace those taken from us nor ever fully assuage the grief that continues, this sentence is another step on the path to justice… While this event may have stretched the will and spirit of the Jewish community, it never broke it – nor will any act of hate or violence.”

Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence: “The jury today issued its final verdict, ensuring that the perpetrator of the deadliest act of antisemitic violence in American history will never walk free. We thank the many participants in the judicial process, including the jurors, Judge Colville and his staff, the prosecutors and other Justice Department employees who worked long and hard to bring us to this day.  We are also grateful to the law enforcement officers who put themselves in harm’s way on October 27, 2018, and saved many lives. And we remember the eleven people murdered that day because they were Jews and because of the easy accessibility of guns in our state and nation.”

Alan Hausman, Tree of Life Congregation: “I am thankful for the thoughtful deliberation and hard work of all who got us to today’s decision. Nothing about this process has been easy. I will forever be grateful for all those who have helped our congregation these past four-plus years: the public safety department and law enforcement officers, our fellow Pittsburghers, and people of all faiths and backgrounds from across the country and around the world. While today’s decision is hard, it also marks the start of a new chapter at Tree of Life, and I find myself hopeful because of the love and support we still receive as we continue to heal and move forward.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, Tree of Life Congregation: “Today’s decision and the pending sentences on the non-capital crimes mark the closing chapter of an emotional, months-long trial. In the years we have spent waiting for this trial to take place, many of us have been stuck in neutral. It was a challenge to move forward with the looming specter of a murder trial. Now that the trial is nearly over and the jury has recommended a death sentence, it is my hope that we can begin to heal and move forward. As we do, I have my faith, bolstered by the embrace and respect with which my community has been treated by our government and our fellow citizens. For this and the seriousness with which the jury took its duty, I remain forever grateful.”

Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh: “… We are grateful to the prosecution team for their meticulous process to seek justice for the victims, and we are grateful to the jury for their time and dedication in reaching this sentence. This trial shows that our justice system can work by giving a voice to the voiceless and by ensuring that we, as a society, can bring the perpetrator of this horrendous attack to account. As this chapter comes to a close, we reflect on the strength and resilience of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community and the entire community. Although healing is not a linear process, together we have supported people in need of mental health services and ensured that we stay safe from harm. In the wake of the horrors of the worst antisemitic attack in U.S. history, our community neither retreated from participating in Jewish life nor suppressed our Jewishness. Instead, our community embraced our Jewish values—strengthening Jewish life, supporting those in need, and building a safer, more inclusive world…”

Anti-Defamation League:Today, a jury sentenced the perpetrator of the worst attack against American Jews in our history to the death penalty. We know this is a hard day for many, especially in Pittsburgh. We must keep working to protect Jewish communities from the horrors of #antisemitism.”

Jewish Council for Public Affairs: “The Tree of Life attack is reflective of a broader cycle of far-right extremism – rooted in white supremacist conspiracy theories and lies — in which each attack inspires the next. It illustrates the deep interconnection of antisemitism and other forms of hate and extremism, making clear that all of our safety and fates are intertwined. Breaking this cycle requires not just accountability and truth-telling – but also cross-community solidarity in advocating for preventative measures that build resilience and advance the inclusive, multiracial democracy we need.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center: “Bowers was a domestic terrorist who perpetrated the largest slaughter of Jewish worshippers in American history. This terrorist was validated and emboldened by others on social media. His just and legal conviction, sentencing, and execution, will send a clear message to tomorrow’s potential killers of innocents in their houses of worship in our country that such extremists will be held fully accountable under the laws of our democracy for any such heinous acts.”

Republican Jewish Coalition: “Justice for the Tree of Life synagogue victims, their families, and the greater Pittsburgh, PA community. May the memories of those lost continue to be a blessing forever.”

HIAS: “The shooting at the Tree of Life, New Light, and Dor Hadash congregations targeted Jews, in part, for their support for welcoming refugees with dignity and compassion. Today’s sentencing marks the end of the judicial process, but this tragedy will forever be part of our story as an organization. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident, and it is important that violent extremism, antisemitism and hate not go unanswered. HIAS will continue to work with resolve and conviction for a more just society; we remain in solidarity with all communities targeted by hateful and xenophobic acts. We stand with the people of Pittsburgh and hope they can continue to heal from the loss and disruption in their community. We pray for a sense of closure, that the memories of those lost will forever be a blessing, and that the Jewish community of Pittsburgh will continue to thrive into the future…”

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