Minister Bennett: "Nearly eighty years since Kristallnacht, when the Jews of Europe perished in the flames of their houses of worship, one thing is clear. Antisemitism, Jew hating, is not a distant memory. Antisemitism is a clear and present danger. But we will prevail. The Tree of Life will never be uprooted by hatred."
photo credit: Alexi Rosenfeld (courtesy)
Minister of Jews in the Diaspora, and Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, yesterday evening (Sunday) addressed a memorial vigil held in the city of Pittsburgh, for the 11 members of the Jewish community murdered in the shooting attack at the Tree of Life Congregation on Saturday.
Minister Bennett was visiting the city as an official emissary of the Government of Israel, to offer strength and support to the Jewish community following the terrible tragedy. The Minister met during the day with leaders of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, and wider American Jewry, as well as with Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf, and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, as well as Members of Congress representing the state.
In an emotional meeting, Minister Bennett sat with Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, the leader of the Tree of Life congregation which was attacked, who managed to help usher some of his congregants to safety. Minister Bennett told the leaders of the Pittsburgh community, "Our whole nation is feeling the pain you are feeling here after this heinous hate crime. I want to extend my condolences to the families of the victims." He added, "People who have seen so much in their lives could not imagine they would be gunned down in Shabbat prayer."
The Minister then went on to visit the site of the attack, and met with ZAKA and other emergency crews, who had helped the local police, who he also thanked for their great bravery.
Addressing the vigil, an event with more than 4,000 attendees from across the Jewish and non-Jewish communities in the city, including the Governor and Mayor, Senators, Congressmen, as well as President Trump's Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, and New York Israel Consul General Danny Dayan.
The Minister said, "Today, we stand in the shadow of death. In the shadow of evil. In the shadow of a cowardly, terror attack on Jews who were in synagogue to pray. The deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States." He stressed however, "But today, I met the people, and the leaders of the community here in Pittsburgh, and I didn't see death. I saw life, strength. I saw a warm community, of love and unity. I saw the Tree of Life, which will never be uprooted by hatred."
He noted, "We stand together, as Jews from all communities united, as well as members of all faiths. Together we stand. Americans, Israelis. People who are together saying, "no to hatred. The murderer's bullet does not stop to ask: are you Conservative or Reform, are you Orthodox? Are you right wing or left wing? It has one goal, and that is to kill innocent people. Innocent Jews."
He told the thousands at the event that he came to offer the support and condolences of all the Israeli people.
He stressed, "Nearly eighty years since Kristallnacht, when the Jews of Europe perished in the flames of their houses of worship, one thing is clear. Antisemitism, Jew hating, is not a distant memory. Antisemitism is a clear and present danger. From Sderot to Pittsburgh, the hand that fires missiles is the same hand that shoots worshipers. We will fight against the hatred of Jews, and anti-Semitism wherever it raises its head. And we will prevail."
Stressing the shared values that bonded the American and Israeli peoples together, the Minister concluded "Freedom will overcome. Unity will defeat division. Love will defeat hatred. Light will defeat darkness. Am Yisrael Chai."