Pittsburgh Synagogue Rabbi: Donald Trump 'Certainly Welcome' Following Tree of Life Shooting

Following the deaths of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday in Pittsburgh, a group of religious leaders wrote an open letter to President Donald Trump saying he wasn’t welcome in their city. While the letter was supported by the former president of the synagogue, the rabbi who was leading Shabat services as gunfire rang out had a different take on the president’s potential visit.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told CNN that he didn't blame any specific group of people for the shooting, because hate “does not know religion, race, creed political party.”

Trump expressed the possibility that he would visit the Tree of Life Synagogue in the coming days. While some rejected the president’s visit, Myers welcomed him to the city.

“The president of the United States is always welcome,” he said. “I’m a citizen, he’s my president. He is certainly welcome.”

Myers's message differed from that of other Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh, including former Tree of Life Synagogue president Lynette Lederman, who told CNN Monday that she did not welcome Trump to her city and called him the “purveyor of hate speech.

“The hypocritical words that come from him tell me nothing,” Lederman said. She added that to prevent this from happening again, the country needed to “stop the hate speech,” which, she said “starts at the top.”

Lederman wasn’t the only one to reject Trump’s visit. A group of 11 Jewish leaders from the Pittsburgh division of the progressive Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, signed an open letter to the president asking him to stay away. The letter accused Trump of emboldening the white nationalist movement with his words and policies, and called the shooting a “direct culmination of [Trump’s] influence.”

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us,” the letter read.

Before the shooting, Myers told CNN that nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The rabbi then saw people running down the back of his sanctuary and heard another round of gunfire. He told congregants to drop to the floor, stay silent and not to move.

rabbi jeffrey myers welcomes trump to visit Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue speaks to reporters on Monday after a shooting that left 11 members of his congregation dead. Myers welcomed President Donald Trump to Pittsburgh, breaking from other Jewish leaders who told him he was not welcome. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Myers was told he was the first person to call 911 to report the shooting. He said he regretted that he couldn’t do more to help his congregation. He's now focused on offering support to his congregants, and planning funerals for several members of his synagogue.  

Despite witnessing a horrifying scene, Myers expressed his belief in the good of people and cited the Bible. He quoted a message that God told Noah after the flood: “I have learned that man, from his youth, is prone to evil.”

“Which you think would be a horrific thing for God to tell us,” Myers said. “The message I get from that is that, yes, there is the possibility of hate in all people but there’s also the possibility of good.”

Myers said that good would prevail over evil if people let it, which he had seen with his own eyes. Over the past two days, the rabbi said he’d seen overwhelming goodwill coming from “every religion,” including Jews, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.

“I will not let hate close down my building,” Myers said.

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