Duquesne community mourns shooting victims as U.S. President visits city

Raymond Arke | Editor-in-Chief
Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) addresses the media at a press conference on the killing of 11 at a Squirrel Hill synagogue.
Raymond Arke | Editor-in-Chief
Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) addresses the media at a press conference on the killing of 11 at a Squirrel Hill synagogue.

Raymond Arke | Editor-in-Chief


This story initially ran online on Oct. 27 under the title “At least 11 killed in shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue, Duquesne ‘devastated and terribly saddened.'” It has been updated with the latest information, including coverage of Duquesne’s inter-faith service and President Trump’s visit.

Early on Saturday morning, a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill killing at least 11 and injuring six others, including two Pittsburgh Police and two SWAT officers. The Anti-Defamation League is calling it “likely the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.”

Suspect, Robert Bowers, a Pittsburgh resident, is in custody. According to officials, Bowers was indicted on 44 counts by a federal grand jury on Oct. 31. He also faces state charges.

The names and ages of the 11 victims are: Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Rose Mallinger, 97; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; married couple Bernice Simon, 84 and Sylvan Simon, 86; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; Irving Younger, 69 and brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59 and David Rosenthal, 54.

In a campus-wide email, Duquesne President Ken Gormley said that Cecil Rosenthal was a community buddy in Duquesne’s Best Buddies chapter and was present at many events on campus.

On Oct. 30, Duquesne hosted an interfaith prayer service open to the public that filled the Student Union Ballroom to capacity. The service consisted of a mix of Christian and Jewish prayer and song.

Gormley gave a passionate address denouncing hate speech and those who use it.

“I can say this: We can no longer tolerate, as a society, hateful rhetoric and brush it off as a ‘necessary evil’ of business or politics or — worse yet — as some sort of halfway-humorous form of sport,” he said.

Gormley went on to advocate a “zero tolerance policy” on hate and advocated voting against those candidates who are involved with it.

“The only way to stop [hate] is to start calling it out; adopt a zero tolerance to it; and refuse to patronize/support individuals or groups, or disparaging websites or social media sites, or give our sacred votes to political candidates, who directly, indirectly, overtly, covertly, explicitly or with a wink of purported unknowingness, foment a climate of hate … that can explode instantaneously like this gunman’s weapons and turn into disastrous consequences.”

David DeFelice, a senior and president of Duquesne’s Hillel Jewish Students Organization (JSO), said in an earlier interview with The Duke that he and the entire Jewish community was “left disheartened.”

“I have received many messages from people here and in Israel wondering about my well-being,” DeFelice said. “Our Duquesne JSO is keeping in contact with one another and will continue to rely on each other during this difficult time.”

Earlier on Oct. 30, President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin arrived in Pittsburgh on Air Force One. Two Duke reporters were in attendance, but the White House contingent took no questions from the press and boarded the motorcade.

The President and his motorcade visited the memorial in front of the Tree of Life Synagogue and UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, where he spoke with the medical team, visited a patient and spoke with a family member of one of the deceased. He made no public remarks.

According to various news reports, the president was met with protesters numbering in the thousands who objected to his visit. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi all declined to accompany the president on the trip. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto also did not appear with Trump.

The Pittsburgh community has been reeling since the massacre.

In a press conference on the afternoon of Oct. 27, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said that “the nightmare hit home.”

Chief of Police Scott Schubert spoke at the press conference and praised the actions of his officers.

“Watching those officers run into danger … was unbelievable courage,” he said.

Robert Jones, Special Agent in Charge of Pittsburgh’s FBI office, said the FBI is leading the investigation and that it is in “early stages.”

“This is the most horrific crime scene I’ve seen,” he said.

Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, called it a “terrible and unspeakable act of hate … the worst of humanity.”

He said that the Justice Department is treating it as a federal hate crime investigation.

“Justice … will be swift and it will be severe,” Brady said.

Officials said that Bowers spent around 20 minutes in the synagogue and was carrying at least three handguns and an assault rifle. None of the 11 fatalities were children.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) spoke and called for unity in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“Antisemitism has no place in our Commonwealth,” he said. “We must all come together … [we] can not accept this violence as a normal part of American life.”

Wolf also praised the coordination of local, state and federal law enforcement in response to the shooting.

DeFelice said he felt “heartbroken” by the shooting, but offered some words of hope.

“It is one of the most painful experiences to know you are hated for being who you are. My Jewishness is integral to my identity,” he said. “But I know that the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people won’t despair. We are a people founded on community, and today, I think we are all one big Jewish and non-Jewish Pittsburgh community.”

Kailey Love contributed reporting.