Pittsburgh rabbi: 'I heard him execute my congregants'

Tree of Life rabbi speaks out on the Today Show about Saturday's massacre.

October 29, 2018 18:30
1 minute read.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life synagogue walks after speaking to reporters on October 29

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life synagogue walks after speaking to reporters on October 29, 2018 . (photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP)


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Rabbi Jeffrey Myers is faced with a near-impossible task: Help rebuild the Tree of Life synagogue community in the wake of America's worst antisemitic attack.

"For a moment, I felt like I'm standing in a cemetery and this is a massive mausoleum,'' Myers said in an interview with NBC's Today Show. "It's my home and it's been desecrated."

The clergyman was leading services when he heard gunfire. He gave his congregants safety instructions and then ran upstairs to call 911. He never actually saw the gunmen or the violence that would later claim 11 lives.

"I went up into the choir loft, and I heard him execute my congregants,'' he said. "I didn't watch. I couldn't watch."

Despite the horror, Myers is determined to help his community heal, physically and spiritually.
"(The building) can't be used again in its present condition. The bullet holes are too numerous to count, but we will rebuild because we're Tree of Life. We've been here 154 years and you can cut off some branches, but the tree will continue to grow, and we will be back."

The gunman, who appears in court on Monday, was an avowed antisemite who posted about his hatred of Jews online prior to the shooting. 

Myers appears to agree with Anti-Defamation League's National Director Jonathan Greenblatt, who told The Jerusalem Post that antisemitism has been normalized in America's political discourse. 

Seconding the notion, Myers said: "There is hate, and it isn't going away. It just seems to be getting worse."

Funerals for some of the victims will begin on Tuesday. President Donald Trump has stated he'd like to visit Pittsburgh but hasn't provided specifics. A Jewish group, Bend the Arc, solicited 21,000 signatures on a letter telling Trump that he is not welcome in Pittsburgh until he disavows white nationalism.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the controversial visit would have to be up the families of the victims. Myers, on the other hand, said it would be an honor to meet with the president and would like to share the righteousness of the victims with him.

"These are good, decent people," Myers said. "They didn't have an ounce of hate in any of them. And we turn to the leaders of our country."

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