Messages of Unity by NYC Council Members, Alleged Shooter Indicted

October 31, 2018 Updated: November 16, 2018

NEW YORK—Chaim Deutsch had not yet heard of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh when he turned his phone on and received a series of text messages. The messages were from faith leaders and New Yorkers sending him condolences to the Jewish community and to all New Yorkers.

His phone had been off while attending Sabbath services at his synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27. 

Four days later, Deutsch, a New York City Council member and chair of the city’s Jewish caucus, rallied with other council members, community leaders, and city residents at New York City Hall’s steps on Oct. 31. They were there to stand in support of the Jewish community and denounce acts of hatred and violence.

“Eleven young lives were murdered,” Deutsch said at the rally. “Why do I say young lives when they were all senior citizens? The reason why they are young lives is because they were taken away from us.” 

The victims were aged 54 to 94.

The speakers spoke of how America’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths, of standing together in unity against violence, and of the need to educate people away from hatred. 

“You are what your record says you are,” Council Member I. Daneek Miller said. “Our record says that we stand for dignity and humanity. We stand with our brothers and sisters of all faiths, all races, and all nations.

Speakers at the rally included Council Member Karen Koslowitz, whose mother escaped the Holocaust; Council Member Ben Kallos, who is Jewish; Yeshiva University’s Jon Greenfield; and Devorah Halberstam, director of external affairs at the Jewish children’s museum.

Other speakers included council members Ydanis Rodriguez, Margaret Chin, Mark Levine, Barry Grodenchik, Brad Lander, Rory Lancman, Stephen Levin, as well as City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

Alleged Shooter Indicted

In the mass shooting, eight men and three women, were killed and of the six people injured, four were police officers.

Robert Bowers, 46, has been indicted on 44-counts including obstruction by force of the victims’ free exercise of religious beliefs, intentionally killing with a firearm, and unlawful possession of firearms. 

According to the indictment, Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue Saturday morning armed with three handguns and a rifle. While inside, he allegedly open fired on the members of three Jewish congregations gathered there for Sabbath services. 

The day after the shooting, thousands of people attended an interfaith gathering and vigil at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh.

Since then, people across the United States as well as Canada have held vigils, memorials, and gatherings in a show of unity to remember the victims and take a stand against hatred. 

Speaking at the NYC rally, Rabbi Eli Cohen from the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council expressed his appreciation that communities and people of every race and religion were coming together to express those sentiments.

“We do not condone, and we do not allow, violence in our community, and in our hearts,” he said.

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