Pittsburgh Tragedy Called the “Deadliest Attack on the Jewish Community in the History of the United States”

The assault comes after reports of rising anti-Semitism in America.

Keith Srakocic/AP

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

With 11 confirmed fatalities, Saturday’s armed assault on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue has emerged as an unprecedented act of anti-Semitic violence. 

Law enforcement was quick to regard the shootings as a hate crime, leaving the FBI in charge of the investigation. At an afternoon press conference, Bob Jones, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office, stressed the victims had been targeted during worship and “brutally murdered simply because of their faith.”

“We believe this is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States,” the Anti Defamation League wrote in a statement issued Saturday afternoon. While the ADL’s 2017 audit reported a record 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents for the year, previous violent attacks documented by the organization feature, at most, a handful of fatalities.

Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh area man who police say entered the congregation bearing an assault rifle and three hand guns, maintained a social media profile on the alt-right favored Gab-social network that, the ADL has documented, trafficked in anti-Semitic phrases and memes:

The vast majority of the posts are anti-Semitic in nature, using language like “Jews are the children of satan,” “kike infestation,” “filthy EVIL jews” and “Stop the Kikes then worry about the Muslims.” Other posts repeat standard white supremacist slogans, such as “Diversity means chasing down the last white person.”

…One of the most recent posts (possibly from Saturday morning), criticizes HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which has been instrumental in providing aid to refugees. It also echoes anti-immigration language about hordes of murderous “invaders.” “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate