Trump protests disrespectful to shooting victims


Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer

A woman speaks to a crowd of people protesting anti-Semitic violence through a megaphone on Tuesday.

By Josh Beylinson, For The Pitt News

A week has passed since the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27, and Pittsburgh is still recovering. Thousands of people showed up to the vigil at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial the following day, including Pitt students and faculty.

As a Jew, the shooting was incredibly distressing, but the show of support from the vast majority of the City and campus was truly amazing and is something the local Jewish community will never forget.

But despite the incredible show of support and unity, there were many people who used Trump’s visit following the shooting as an opportunity to protest, despite the fact that it was a time of mourning for the Jewish community.

While Trump has engaged in political rhetoric along with his condemnation of the shooting and its perpetrator, he dedicated his visit to meeting with the victims of the synagogue shooting, which was welcomed by the Tree of Life Synagogue Rabbi Jeffrey Myers.

When Trump visited Pittsburgh I went to the Tree of Life Synagogue, and while at the barricades I was shocked to see so many protesters near where Trump paid his respects to the fallen. A memorial to the Tree of Life shooting victims is not the place to stage a political protest, and is downright disrespectful to Jews.

The first seven days following a burial is known as the Shiva in Jewish tradition, and it is when the most intense mourning is done. The Shiva is part of a month-long mourning process known as Shloshim. Many non-Jewish people that protested against Trump were not aware of this tradition.

For Jews, this is a time of mourning and remembrance of the dead, and it is when the soul travels from Earth to the afterlife. This is why Trump visiting the memorial to the dead was significant, as burials were taking place around the time of his visit. For many Jews, protesting so close to the memorial during Shloshim was considered highly disrespectful.

Many people felt offended by Trump’s visit to Pittsburgh. However, when Rabbi Myers welcomed Trump to his place of worship, his decision should’ve been respected by the local community. After all, he represents the group of people who were impacted by the shooting the most, and we should respect him and his congregation.

The most disrespectful act that occurred was when people sent hate mail to Rabbi Myers because of his decision to welcome Trump to the City and synagogue. This behavior is intolerable. Fortunately, the vast majority of people did not go to such extreme lengths to express their political dissatisfaction, but the hate mail should be condemned regardless.

There were thousands more people who protested near the synagogue when Trump was at the memorial to the slain. Many of the protestors were at the barricades leading to the memorial with signs protesting Trump, even though the president was only there to pay his respects.

When the president stopped at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital to speak with the injured cops who risked their lives to stop the shooter, there were also many students protesting the president outside the hospital as well. While it was a small segment of our total student population, it is still important to point out this behavior.

Many people, including Mayor Bill Peduto, claimed that Trump’s visit was a distraction to the burial process, even though it is common procedure for presidents to visit tragedy-stricken areas. Examples include George Bush visiting New York after 9/11 and Barack Obama visiting Orlando after the nightclub shooting. Trump also made a visit to Las Vegas, where he met with victims and first responders three days after the shooting that occured there last year. These sort of visits are common, and Trump did not disturb the City merely by paying his respects.

When a president visits a tragedy stricken area, that is not the time to stage a political protest against them. Trump will certainly appear in Pittsburgh in the future, whether that be in his campaign for the presidential election of 2020 or a sooner event, which would be the appropriate time to engage in protests and demonstrations.

When a city is still reeling from a shooting and the president arrives to pay respects, that is not the time to protest his presence in the City or what he says on twitter.

While many people protesting were also Jews mourning the loss of Jewish life in their own way, people must also realize that the group most affected by the shooting was the congregation of the Tree of Life Synagogue.

This sentiment also applies to the Bend the Arc letter, a response to Trump’s political rhetoric. While everyone deserves the right to express their political views, protests should not have occured in light of Rabbi Myers welcoming Trump to his synagogue.

While some may feel upset at Trump, it is selfish to say that an individual’s dislike of Trump outweighs the santicity of a memorial to the fallen or is more important than Rabbi Myers’ very clear welcoming of Trump to the City. This sentiment also applies to the students protesting Trump as he visited injured first responders at the hospital. The president was there to perform one of the tasks a president hopes to never have to do, not play politics.

People should’ve respected the Tree of Life Synagogue congregation and rabbi, and not disrespected grieving Jews through protesting and bringing up other political issues as the president paid respect to those suffering in the aftermath of a tragic event.