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Local community members, politicians react to Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Posted at 9:49 AM, Oct 28, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY -- Community members and politicians throughout Utah released statements after 11 people were killed in a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski expressed her condolences and stated that the Salt Lake Police Department would work to increase patrols and keep synagogues safe:

Rabbi Sam Spector’s released the following statement to Salt Lake City’s Congregation Kol Ami:

"Today, we began services as we do every Saturday morning, with the words "Shabbat Shalom," wishing those in our presence a Shabbat of peace. However, at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, today was anything but peaceful.

Today, our hearts were torn by yet another senseless, mass shooting, this time targeting the Jewish community. Our leadership is committed to the safety of everyone who walks through the doors of Congregation Kol Ami and we have been in communication with law enforcement from the FBI, Salt Lake City and Unified Police Departments to take necessary precautions. At this time, law enforcement believes that the act in Pittsburgh was carried out by a "lone-wolf" attacker and that there is no imminent threat to our synagogue. That being said, we at Congregation Kol Ami have stepped up our vigilance, our security, and our ongoing concern for everyone’s safety. That is the essence of what it means for a synagogue to be a sanctuary — a safe place of peace and reflection. This will be true at all times and at all occasions — services, Religious School, and at programs. The police have increased their patrols of our area and we will have police presence tomorrow for Religious School hours. We also are in the process of planning a vigil with our Jewish communal partners in Utah, details will be coming as they develop. The clergy is available as well for those who need to talk and are looking for pastoral support.

What we must remember as well is that the perpetrators of violence such as today's shooting have a goal of making Jewish people feel unsafe; and though at thousands of synagogues around the world today, like ours, Jewish communities prayed and celebrated Simchas, the attack on one synagogue is meant to be an attack on all of us. In the coming weeks, we will observe the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when in Nazi Germany synagogues were burned in hopes of discouraging participation in the Jewish community. In those days, the Global Jewish community began attending their synagogues in larger numbers than previously to rob these terrorists of achieving their goal.

I ask you to now more than ever before, do not remain silent. Today's shooting shows us that we need more community, more holiness in the world, and more understanding between each other. Today's attack means that we must amplify our voices to create the change in the world that we need. Do not shy away, but rather, come and join us for prayer, study, activities as we shake our fist in defiance to those who want to end participation in the Jewish world. I urge you to make, more than ever before, Congregation Kol Ami your second home and to keep the Pittsburgh Jewish community in your hearts as we pray that our tomorrows will be better than our world today.

Rabbi Samuel L. Spector"

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) released the following statement:

“Today, my prayers are with the people of Pittsburgh. This horrific act of violence—perpetrated against a holy people on their holy day—reminds us of the reality of evil and the need to counter its influence with courage and love. The hatred in this man’s heart has no place in a society founded on the ideal of religious freedom.”

Law enforcement officials stated that the suspect has been identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers, and that the suspect made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting.

Social media postings targeting Jews that are believed to have come from Bowers are a focus of the investigation, a federal law enforcement officials said.