ELEVEN people have been reported dead after a gunman opened fire at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Four police officers were among the wounded in the shooting at killing at Tree of Life synagogue.
Reports in the US have identified the suspect as Robert D. Bowers. Erika Strassburger, the city councilwoman for the district that includes the synagogue, said that Mr Bowers had surrendered to the police and been taken to the hospital, the New York Times reported.
A posting on an account linked to Mr Bowers on the social-media site Gab, made hours before the shooting, read: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
HIAS, founded in the 19th century as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, is a Jewish charity that helps to resettle refugees.
On Saturday it issued a statement: “There are no words to express how devastated we are by the events in Pittsburgh this morning. This loss is our loss . . . As we try to process this horrifying tragedy, we pray that the American Jewish community and the country can find healing.”
President Donald Trump told reporters: “It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country and frankly all over the world, and something has to be done.”
He suggested that, had the temple “had some kind of protection . . . it could have been a much different situation.”
At a later briefing, he said: “This wicked act of mass murder is pure evil, hard to believe, and frankly something that is unimaginable. . . This was an anti-Semitic act. You wouldn’t think this would be possible in this day and age, but we just don’t seem to learn from the past. Our minds cannot comprehend the cruel hate that could cause a person to unleash such terrible violence during a baby-naming ceremony.”
The Episcopal Church’s Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Rt Revd Dorsey W.M. McConnell, queried descriptions of the shooting as a “tragedy”.
“It is no such thing,” he said. “A tragedy is inevitable. This was not. It was murder, murder of a particularly vile and poisonous kind. Human beings have moral agency. Someone chose to hate, and chose to kill. And now we are faced with a choice as well — to do nothing, or to reject this hatred in the strongest possible words and actions, and to refute in every way, in every forum, the philosophical foundations of anti-Semitism wherever they have gained a foothold in our churches and our society. . . May we especially who bear the name of Christ be fierce in our love and unwavering in our courage, as we mourn with those who mourn, and work with others to lay the foundations for blessing, life and peace for all people.”
The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, described the attack as “a chilling affront to the shared values that unite all people of faith and integrity”.
“Jewish people everywhere will rightly see this as proof of the antisemitism that is never far beneath the world's surface, and retains its power to kill, to maim and to incite fear,” he said. “My hope is that the horror of this attack will serve to strengthen all our resolve to stand with and for our Jewish sisters and brothers in their loss. And to struggle with them to eradicate the hatred of Jews from wherever it lurks in our midst.”
The Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, described the shooting as a “heinous act of hatred”.
“These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans,” he said. “My thoughts right now are focused on the victims, their families and making sure law enforcement has every resource they need.
“We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life. But we have been saying ‘this one is too many’ for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way.
“And in the aftermath of this tragedy, we must come together and take action to prevent these tragedies in the future. We cannot accept this violence as normal.”
A statement from the British Board of Deputies said: “Our hearts go out to the innocent worshippers gunned down in cold blood at a Pittsburgh synagogue. According to reports, the shooter said ‘all these Jews must die’. The UK’s Jewish community stands in solidarity with everyone affected in the US, now and always.”
In a blog post in July, the Rabbi of Tree of Life, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, spoke of concerns about gun control: “Despite continuous calls for sensible gun control and mental health care, our elected leaders in Washington knew that it would fade away in time. Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the mid-term elections, I fear that that the status quo will remain unchanged, and school shootings will resume. I shouldn’t have to include in my daily morning prayers that God should watch over my wife and daughter, both teachers, and keep them safe. Where are our leaders?”