Thousands of mourners on Tuesday attended the first funerals for victims of a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, as protesters prepared to greet U.S. President Donald Trump amid accusations his rhetoric had encouraged anti-Semitic extremists.
More than 1,800 people from across the United States came to offer condolences to the relatives of David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59, at the Rodef Shalom synagogue in the Pennsylvania city as police officers stood outside.
Watch live video below:
The two brothers, who lived at a home for people with disabilities, were among the 11 mostly elderly congregants shot to death on Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
Services were also held for Jerry Rabinowitz, a 66-year-old family physician, and Daniel Stein, a 71-year-old retiree.
Nurses in surgical scrubs were among the crowd of about 2,000 at Rabinowitz’s funeral.
“He was just precious. I feel like I’ve lost a father figure — and I have a father,” said Michele Bucher, a 54-year-old patient of Rabinowitz.
Robert Bowers, 46, is accused of storming into the Tree of Life synagogue yelling “All Jews must die” and opening fire on members of three congregations holding Sabbath prayer services there.
A federal judge on Monday ordered Bowers held without bail.
The attack, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) described as the deadliest targeting Jews in the United States, has heightened a national debate over Trump’s rhetoric, which critics say has contributed to a surge in white nationalist and neo-Nazi activity.
The Trump administration has rejected the notion that he has encouraged far-right extremists who have embraced him.
Trump’s visit comes just seven days before elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress. The Republicans currently control both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Republican president said he would visit hospitalized police officers and other people wounded in the shooting. He will be accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, the White House said.
“I’m just going to pay my respects,” Trump told Fox News on Monday night. “I would have done it even sooner, but I didn’t want to disrupt anymore than they already had disruption.”
The top four U.S. congressional leaders – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi – declined to join Trump in Pittsburgh, two sources familiar with the planning said.
An aide to McConnell said the Kentucky Republican was unable to attend because of a conflict with events in his home state.
Ryan was not able to travel to Pittsburgh on such short notice, an aide said.
The ADL, a nonprofit group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of hate, said last week that far-right extremists had stepped up “online propaganda offensives” in the run-up to the elections to attack and to try to intimidate Jews.
“I spend half of each year in Germany. I have seen how another country with a much tougher background has dealt with this, starting at ground zero,” said Walter Jacob, a rabbi at Rodef Shalom.
‘YOU ARE NOT WELCOME’
Members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community said they would protest against Trump on Tuesday afternoon.
“The gunman who tore apart our neighborhood believed your lies about the immigrant caravan in Mexico,” protest organizers said in an announcement, referring to a group of migrants who are trekking through Mexico toward the United States. “He believed anti-Semitic lies that Jews were funding the caravan”
In a social media post on Saturday, Bowers, the suspect, had accused the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a group that helps refugees, of bringing “invaders in that kill our people.”
The protest announcement echoed an open letter from a group of local Jewish leaders who told Trump: “You are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.”
More than 75,000 people have signed the letter, organized and posted online by the Pittsburgh chapter of Bend the Arc, a Jewish organization opposed to what it calls “the immoral agenda of the Trump administration and the Republican Party.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he was also against Trump’s visit because it would coincide with the first funerals.
Peduto, a Democrat, said Trump should wait until all the funerals were held, adding that the visit and additional security measures entailed would distract attention from the “priority” of burying the dead.
On Monday, Bowers, a onetime truck driver who frequently posted anti-Semitic material online and was described by neighbors as a loner, was charged with 29 federal felony counts. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Prosecutors have said they are treating the mass shooting as a hate crime.
In addition to the 11 worshipers who were killed, six people, including four police officers, were wounded before Bowers was shot by police and surrendered. Four people, including two police officers, remained hospitalized on Tuesday afternoon, according to a spokeswoman for UPMC Presbyterian hospital.
(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan in Washington; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)
Netanyahu, Gantz spur supporters on eve of tense Israeli polls
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main opponent Benny Gantz sought to galvanise supporters Monday on the eve of a tense election with the political fate of the country's longest-serving premier in the balance.
The vote on Tuesday will be Israel's second in five months after Netanyahu suffered one of the biggest defeats of his political career when he failed to form a coalition after April polls.
Opinion polls indicate another tight race that may see ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu's former right-hand man who is now a rival, play a kingmaker role with his campaign to "make Israel normal again."
Purdue files for bankruptcy in bid to settle opioid crisis cases
Purdue Pharma has filed for bankruptcy in a settlement agreement that it hopes will provide more than $10 billion to address the opioid crisis, the company said in a statement on Sunday.
The pharmaceutical giant whose prescription painkiller OxyContin is blamed for much of the US opioid addiction epidemic, is facing thousands of state and federal lawsuits.
The settlement, which is subject to court approval, will contribute Purdue's entire value to a body established for the benefit of the claimants and the American people.
Purdue Chairman Steve Miller said the proposals will "provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis."
US hints at military response to Saudi attacks as oil prices surge
Oil prices made their biggest jump since the Gulf War on Monday after President Donald Trump warned that the US was "locked and loaded" to respond to attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure that Washington blamed on Iran.
It is the first time the president has hinted at a potential American military response to the drone attacks, which slashed Saudi oil production by half and led both the kingdom and the United States to announce they may tap their strategic reserves.
"Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!" Trump tweeted.