Minister Bennett addresses Pittsburgh Jewish community leaders at a memorial vigil on Sunday, October 28, 2018..
(photo credit: ALEXI ROSENFELD)
Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett addressed a memorial vigil in Pittsburgh on Sunday evening for the 11 members of the Jewish community murdered in the shooting attack at the Etz Chaim Congregation on Saturday.
"Nearly eighty years since Kristallnacht, when the Jews of Europe perished in the flames of their houses of worship, one thing is clear," Bennett said. "Antisemitism, Jew-hating, is not a distant memory. Antisemitism is a clear and present danger. But we will prevail. The Tree of Life will never be uprooted by hatred."
Bennett visited Pittsburgh as an official emissary of Israel to offer condolences and support to the Jewish community in the wake of the horrific tragedy on Saturday. Earlier on Sunday, in a visit to the Tree of Life Synagogue, he declared that the State of Israel stood alongside the Jewish community there “as one person with one soul.”
Bennett told the Pittsburgh community, "Our whole nation is feeling the pain you are feeling here after this heinous hate crime. I want to extend my condolences to the families of the victims." He added, "People who have seen so much in their lives could not imagine they would be gunned down in Shabbat prayer."
More than 4,000 people attended the vigil, including the governor of Pennsylvania, the mayor of Pittsburgh, senators, congressmen, President Trump's Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt, Israeli Ambassador Ron Derma, and New York Israel Consulate General Danny Dayan.
Bennett told the thousands of people at the event that he came from Israel to offer the support and condolences of the Israeli people.
"Today, we stand in the shadow of death. In the shadow of evil. In the shadow of a cowardly, terror attack on Jews who were in synagogue to pray. The deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States."
"But today, I met the people, and the leaders of the community here in Pittsburgh, and I didn't see death. I saw life, strength. I saw a warm community, of love and unity. I saw the Tree of Life, which will never be uprooted by hatred."
He noted, "We stand together, as Jews from all communities united, as well as members of all faiths. Together we stand. Americans, Israelis. People who are together saying, "no to hatred. The murderer's bullet does not stop to ask: are you Conservative or Reform, are you Orthodox? Are you right wing or left wing? It has one goal, and that is to kill innocent people. Innocent Jews.
Bennett concluded, "Freedom will overcome. Unity will defeat division. Love will defeat hatred. Light will defeat darkness. Am Yisrael Chai
Bennett flew out to the US on Saturday night upon hearing of the mass shooting by antisemitic extremist Robert Bower and visited the synagogue building. He also met with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to discuss the attack as well as security measures that can be put in place for the Jewish community.
Bennett was able to enter the scene of the shooting in the synagogue itself. He spoke with FBI officials about the attack and lit memorial candles for the 11 victims at the Jewish Community Center in Pittsburgh.
“One’s heart is dumbfounded by such events; 11 families who lost their loved ones in moments of terror and crazy hatred,” the minister said. “The State of Israel and the entire Jewish people bow their heads with the community in Pittsburgh, which has undergone an immense tragedy. We have come here in order to lend support
, to give strength and to give a clear message that the Jewish people are united, courageous and strong.”
In response to questions about the tense relations between US Jews and the rabbinical establishment in Israel, Bennett said that “the killer did not ask [the victims] who is who.” He stressed that he is happy to meet “any Jewish person” and that “every Jew in the world is wanted and loved [in Israel].”
Earlier on Sunday, Jewish-American writer David Simon slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Twitter, claiming that Netanyahu helped US President Donald Trump to be elected and that, in turn, enabled the rise of American fascism.
In response to a tweet by Bennett about his flight to Pittsburgh to support the local Jewish community, Simon wrote that the minister should “Go Home.”
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