Jewish nurse who treated synagogue shooter: I chose to show him empathy

"This was the same Robert Bowers that just committed mass homicide. The Robert Bowers who instilled panic in my heart worrying my parents were two of his 11 victims less than an hour before."

November 4, 2018 13:10
2 minute read.
Entrance to the Emergency Trauma Center at Allegheny General Hospital

Entrance to the Emergency Trauma Center at Allegheny General Hospital, where authorities say Saturday's Tree of Life synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers is hospitalized, is pictured in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (photo credit: JOHN ALTDORFER/REUTERS)


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Ari Mahler, the Jewish nurse and member of the medical staff who saved the life of Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers, shared his experience in an emotional Facebook post on Saturday night.

“I am The Jewish Nurse,” Mahler began, “The trauma nurse in the ER that cared for Robert Bowers who yelled, ‘Death to all Jews,’ as he was wheeled into the hospital. The Jewish nurse who ran into a room to save his life.”

As was widely reported last week, three of the hospital staff who cared for Bowers after he was taken to Allegheny General Hospital for wounds suffered in a gunfight with police, were Jewish.

In his lengthy post, which has been shared over 17,000 times on Facebook, Mahler not only revealed his identity, but also his conflicted feelings as he treated Bowers, an avowed antisemite who killed 11 Jews in a Shabbat morning rampage at the Tree of Life Congregation, the worst antisemitic attack in American history.
Synagogue massacre suspect charged with 44 counts, November 1, 2018 (Reuters)

“I experienced antisemitism a lot as a kid,” Mahler, a rabbi’s son, wrote. “I found drawings on desks of my family being marched into gas chambers, swastikas drawn on my locker, and notes shoved inside of it saying, ‘Die Jew. Love, Hitler.’”

However, despite being a victim of antisemitism in the past and his statement that he feels “antisemitism is thriving,” Mahler described treating Bowers with no malice or hatred.

“To be honest, I didn’t see evil when I looked into Robert Bowers’ eyes. All I saw was a clear lack of depth, intelligence, and palpable amounts of confusion,” Mahler wrote. “He’s the kind of person that is easily manipulated by people with a microphone, a platform, and use fear for motivation. I can’t go into details of our interactions because of HIPAA, but Robert Bowers thanked me for saving him, for showing him kindness, and for treating him the same way I treat every other patient.

“This was the same Robert Bowers that just committed mass homicide,” he continued. “The Robert Bowers who instilled panic in my heart worrying my parents were two of his 11 victims less than an hour before his arrival.

“I’m sure he had no idea I was Jewish,” Mahler wrote. “Why thank a Jewish nurse, when 15 minutes beforehand, you’d shoot me in the head with no remorse? I didn’t say a word to him about my religion. I chose not to say anything to him the entire time. I wanted him to feel compassion. I chose to show him empathy. I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong.”

Mahler simply and concisely explained the reasons for his action.

“Love. That’s why I did it,” he wrote. “Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope. It demonstrates humanity. It reaffirms why we’re all here. The meaning of life is to give meaning to life, and love is the ultimate force that connects all living beings.”

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