Trump goes to Pittsburgh to ‘pay my respects’ after synagogue massacre

Trump heads to Pittsburgh to play consoler-in-chief and ‘pay my respects’ at synagogue where gunman mowed down 11 people – but some Jews don’t want him and Melania there unless he ‘changes his ways’

  • President and Melania go to Pittsburgh following gun massacre at Jewish temple
  • Gunman killed 11 on Saturday as Jews gather for Shabbat worship 
  • Trump is going to ‘pay my respects’ but some don’t want  him there
  • He will also visit the hospital where the injured including police are recovering 
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To Marianne Novy, President Donald Trump isn’t wanted ‘unless he really changes his ways.’ For David Dvir, politics should take a pause for grief: ‘It’s our president, and we need to welcome him.’

Trump is once again called upon to step into the all-too-frequent role of national consoler after the worst instance of anti-Semitic violence in American history. He faces an uneasy welcome on Tuesday in the anguished community of Squirrel Hill, home to the Tree of Life synagogue where 11 people were gunned down during Sabbath services. 

The president’s visit to the Pittsburgh neighborhood, where Novy and Dvir live, comes as he struggles to balance appeals for national unity with partisan campaign rhetoric just a week before contentious midterm elections.

Trump said late Monday he was looking forward to the visit.

‘Well, I’m just going to pay my respects,’ Trump told Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham. ‘I’m also going to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt.’

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will go the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Tuesday to visit with families of victims of Saturday’s gun massacre at a synagogue

This was the scene outside the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday night where tributes to the dead grew beneath police tape. The synagogue’s rabbi has said it can never be reused in its current condition and that the bullet holes inside are ‘too numerous to count’

Freshly dug graves are seen at the Tree of Life Memorial Park on October 29, two days after the atrocity. It is customary for Jews to be buried within three days of dying. The first three victims will be interred on Tuesday

Trump is traveling to the historic hub of the city’s Jewish community as the first funerals are scheduled to be held for the victims, who range in age from 54 to 97. He is expected to meet with first responders and community leaders. 

The death toll includes a set of brothers, a husband and wife, professors, dentists and a physician. It was not immediately clear whether Trump, who will be joined by first lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, would meet with any family members.

The White House said the purpose of Trump’s visit was to ‘express the support of the American people and to grieve with the Pittsburgh community.’

Trump’s trip is set against the backdrop of national unease over incidents of political violence and hate, and questions about his credibility as unifier. Since his 2016 campaign for the White House, Trump has at times been slow to denounce white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other hate-filled individuals and groups that found common cause with his nationalistic political rhetoric.

In Squirrel Hill, Barry Werber, 76, who said he survived the massacre by hiding in a dark storage closet as the gunman rampaged through the building, said he hoped Trump wouldn’t visit, noting that the president has embraced the politically fraught label of ‘nationalist.’ Werber said the Nazis were nationalists.

‘It’s part of his program to instigate his base,’ Werber said, and ‘bigots are coming out of the woodwork.’

Novy, 73, a retired college English professor, said she signed an open letter asking Trump not to come to Pittsburgh. ‘His language has encouraged hatred and fear of immigrants, which is part of the reason why these people were killed,’ she said.

Just minutes before the synagogue attack, the shooter apparently took to social media to rage against HIAS, a Jewish organization that resettles refugees under contract with the U.S. government.

A view of the Rodef Shalom Congregation where the funeral for Tree of Life Congregation mass shooting victims Cecil Rosenthal and David Rosenthal, who are brothers, will be held on Tuesday

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who survived Saturday’s shooting, said Monday that it would be his ‘honor’ to welcome President Trump to Pittsburgh despite remarks from other Jewish leaders and members of the congregation that they do not want him there

David Dvir stands in front of his business, Murray Avenue Locksmith, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He voted for Donald Trump and doesn’t agree with Jewish leaders who say the president shouldn’t come

Kristin Wessell, right, hands a bouquet of flowers to Marianne Novy on Monday; neither woman thinks President Trump should come to town

Dvir, 52, the owner of Murray Avenue Locksmith in Squirrel Hill, said of Trump, ‘I think he made some mistakes, but he is a great president.’ He added that it would be ‘a shame’ if the community protested the president’s visit.

Asked Monday if Trump has done enough to condemn white nationalism, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president ‘has denounced racism, hatred and bigotry in all forms on a number of occasions.’

She added: ‘Some individuals – they’re grieving, they’re hurting. The president wants to be there to show the support of this administration for the Jewish community. The rabbi said that he is welcome as well.’

Local and religious leaders were divided on whether Trump should visit. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, told reporters ahead of the announced visit that the White House ought to consult with the families of the victims about their preferences and asked that the president not come during a funeral.

Holocaust survivor Shulamit Bastacky, 77, sits in the lobby of her apartment building in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. Bastacky was friends with Melvin Wax, one of the victims

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‘If the president is looking to come to Pittsburgh, I would ask that he not do so while we are burying the dead,’ Peduto said. ‘Our attention and our focus is going to be on them, and we don’t have public safety that we can take away from what is needed in order to do both.’

But Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who was conducting Sabbath services at the Tree of Life synagogue when the shooter opened fire, made clear the president would be welcome, telling CNN: ‘The president of the United States is always welcome. I am a citizen. He is my president. He is certainly welcome.’

Shulamit Bastacky, 77, a Holocaust survivor and neighbor of victim Melvin Wax, expressed hope that fraught political issues and protests would not overshadow the remembrances.

‘This is not the place to do it,’ she said. ‘You can do the political part everywhere else. Not at this time. This would be like desecrating those people who were killed. They were murdered because they were Jews.’

‘You can protest later on,’ she added. ‘To me it’s sacred what happened here.’


Bernice and Sylvan Simon, aged 84 and 86

Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86 

The Simons, who had been married for 62 years, were sitting in the back of the main sanctuary when the gunman opened fire. Sylvan, a retired accountant, was still recovering from recently breaking his arm and the couple had no time to escape. 

They have two adult sons and grandchildren. They were memorialized as pillars of the community who regularly helped out and would do ‘anything’ for their friends. 

Richard Gottfried, 65

The pair got married in the Tree of Life in 1956 in a candlelit ceremony.  

Richard Gottfried, 65

Gottfried was preparing to retire from his dental practice and enjoy the next chapter of his life with his wife Peg. 

He helped out at the synagogue, making sure the rabbis had everything they needed to lead services. 

‘He died doing what he liked to do most,’ said Don Salvin, Gottfried’s brother-in-law said.  

Rose Mallinger, 97

Rose Mallinger, 97

Rose was the oldest of the victims. She was also in the main sanctuary when she was gunned down. 

She was among the most devout and was who immediately sprang to the minds of others when they heard about the shooting. 

‘You’ve never met a more vivacious 97-year-old. 

‘She was just so full of life. She had so much energy,’ Brian Schreiber, another member of the congregation, told The Post Gazzette. 

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz was eulogized by his medical practice partner who said: ‘He is one of the finest people I’ve ever met. 

‘We’ve been in practice together for 30 years and friends longer than that. 

‘His patients are going to miss him terribly. His family is going to miss him terribly and I am going to miss him. He was just one of the kindest, finest people.’  

Cecil Rosenthal, 59, David Rosenthal, 54

Brothers Cecil, 59, (right) and David (left) Rosenthal 54

Brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal both suffered disabilities and were regular volunteers at the synagogue. 

On Saturday, they were preparing food for breakfast in the basement kitchen when they were attacked. 

The pair lived together nearby. They were remembered fondly by the congregation’s rabbi. 

‘Cecil and David had a love for life and for those around them. 

‘They loved their community. They spent a lot of time at the Tree of Life, never missing a Saturday,’ Chris Schopf, vice president of residential supports for ACHIEVA, an organization which helps manage the community home where they lived. 

Daniel Stein, 71

Daniel Stein, 71

Stein was another fixture in the Jewish community. Friends said he was proud of his faith and that it was important to him and his family. 

On Sunday, his adult son Joe said it was the ‘worst day of his life’ discovering he was among the dead. 

‘My dad’s life was taken at the Tree of Life shooting. My mom, sister and I are absolutely devastated and crushed. 

‘Our lives now are going to have to take a different path, one that we thought would not happen for a long time. 

‘My dad was a simple man and did not require much,’ he said, sharing a photograph of him with one of his grandchildren. 

 Melvin Wax, 88

Melvin Wax, 88

Melvin was one of three people who were killed downstairs. He was hiding in a closet with others from the New Light congregation when he went back into the room they had been in because he could no longer hear gunshots. 

That is when he was confronted by the gunman and was shot three times. 

Barry Werber, who had been hiding with him in the closet and survived, said he was a ‘gentleman’ who was always the first to arrive for services.

‘He was a gem. He was a gentleman . There was always a smile on his face,’ he said. 

Irving Younger, 69, was also killed

Irving Younger, 69

Younger was a father and a grandfather. His neighbors have told how he ‘never had an unkind word’ to say about anyone. 

‘He was the most wonderful dad and grandpa. He talked about his daughter and his grandson, always, and he never had an unkind word to say about anybody,’ neighbor Tina Prizner told The Tribune Press. 

He went every day to the synagogue, where he was an usher, she said.

Joyce Fienberg, 75

‘He was so kind. He was a beautiful person, a beautiful soul.’

Joyce Fienberg, 75

Widow Joyce Fienberg was a retired university researcher who left her job in 2008.

Former colleagues paid tribute to her as ‘magnificent, generous, caring and profoundly thoughtful.’ 

Her husband Stephen died after a battle with cancer in 2016. 

She has two sons and several grandchildren. 

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