Photo: Dreamstime

Metro Detroit Jewish Community Reacts To Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

"We are standing in solidarity with the Pittsburgh community at this time," Kurzmann said.

October 27, 2018 - 7:50 pm

DETROIT (WWJ) -- 11 people were killed Saturday when a man walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood and opened fire during a baby naming ceremony.

Authorities arrested 46-year-old Robert Bowers, who killed 11 people and wounded at least six more, including four police officers who rushed into the synagogue.

City officials said the shooting was being investigated as a federal hate crime.

Cities across the country were ramping up security at synagogues as precautionary measures.

David Kurzmann, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Metro Detroit, says he views Saturday's attacks as a direct attack against the Jewish community.

“Reports indicate that the shooter came in and announced his intention to kill all Jews," Kurzmann told WWJ. "And the fact that the attack would take place on the Jewish Sabbath, would further the feeling that this was a purposeful attack against the Jewish community.”

Kurzmann said he has already reached out to community leaders in Pittsburgh to offer condolences and says he knows of many people within the Metro Detroit community that have connections to the city of Pittsburgh, and even that neighborhood.

"We are standing in solidarity with the Pittsburgh community at this time," he said.

Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, from Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield, spoke live on WWJ Saturday and said his synagogue has increased security in recent years.

“There has been an increase of our awareness and some of the protocols that we’ve been following in the past – really, since 9/11, I’d say, we started becoming more aware and started doing different things," Moskowitz said. "In this past year, we’ve hired security to always be present when we have services going on, just for our own benefit to keep extra eyes.”

Authorities says prior to the shooting Bowers screamed hateful things and said he intended to kill all Jews. Moskowitz said when there are individuals who act in this manner and carry out hateful acts, their intentions are to terrorize and scare entire communities.

"They want to scare us and tell us not to be able to live our lives as Jews," Moskowitz said. "And so we should be knowing that we can still go to our synagogues and be okay.”

Kurzmann says this sort of attack against a religious institution has an impact far beyond just the Jewish community, saying it "sends shockwaves" throughout the country.

“Actions like this often are intended to terrorize communities," he said. "And I can tell you that we’re a strong community and a community that is going to rally together and band together and show our support of our brothers and sisters during this tragic time.”

According to the Associated Press, Bowers apparently posted anti-Semitic comments on the social media website Gab.com, including one shortly before the attack.

"HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people," the post read. "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

HIAS is a Maryland-based nonprofit group founded in Jewish values and history that helps refugees around the world to find safety and freedom. 

As the investigation is underway, President Donald Trump said "the hearts of all Americans are filled with grief, following the monstrous killing."