Following the October 27 murder of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh, President Donald Trump paid a visit to the affected neighborhood. A pastor was filmed repeatedly telling him he’s not “welcome” and the reaction to her outburst has gone viral.
On Tuesday, October 30, the president and his wife, First Lady Melania Trump visited Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue where a gunman had killed 11 Jews and injured at least six people in the worst anti-Semitic attack in US history.
While Trump and Melania were paying their respects, they were also interrupting the Jewish mourning custom of sitting Shiva.
According to Shiva.com, “sitting shiva refers to a weeklong period of mourning in Judaism during which the grieving “sometimes sit on low stools or boxes while they receive condolence calls.”
Neighbors in the community had been observing the custom with the bereaved, but the president’s motorcade disrupted it.
Presbyterian Reverend Susan Rothenberg was appalled by the display and could no longer hold in her emotions when she started yelling at the president.
In the video, Rothenberg stood on the steps of a house, screaming:
“It’s not about you! Let the families grieve! This is our neighborhood! You’re not welcome here!”
“We don’t want him here. We don’t want him on our street. We have people that can’t sit shiva because you’re blocking our streets! You only care about you! You are not welcome on my street! These are my neighbors that were killed!”
The outburst clip was shared by WTAE-TV on their Facebook page, and so far, has been viewed more than 9 million times. There have also been tons of divided comments trailing the pastor’s action.
While some claimed “she is fueling the very hate she says she's against!” others show their understanding for the woman’s feelings. One person said:
“I feel her frustration. My heart aches for the family and love ones of those who were taken by hatred.”
Rothenberg has become the target of numerous hate mails and threats. Her church has also received demands from angry viewers for her to be fired.
Rev. Sheldon Sorge, Presbytery’s general minister, was appalled by the adverse reactions and wrote in a letter published on the church website:
“I am grief-stricken over the volume and venom of attack that has poured forth from across the country in response to one of our own expressing her dismay over the disruption caused by the presidential visit.”
Rothenberg also explained her actions in a CBS interview later that day. “We wanted our President to know that the words he speaks have consequences,” she said, continuing:
“We wanted the President to know that folks were coming out funerals and couldn’t get to Shiva because of the traffic.”
46-year-old Robert Bowers stormed the Tree of Life synagogue on October 27 and opened fire on the entire congregation, killing at least 11 and injuring six, according to the Associated Press. The gunman is said to have entered the building yelling “All Jews must die!”
The president, whose son-in-law Jared Kushner is Jewish, referred to the incident as "a wicked act of mass murder." He further said:
"The scourge of anti-Semitism cannot be ignored, cannot be tolerated and cannot be allowed to continue."
Meanwhile, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers blamed politicians for the alarming increase in hateful rhetoric. He revealed:
"I said to him, 'Mr. President, hate speech leads to hateful actions. Hate speech leads to what happened in my sanctuary, where seven of my congregants were slaughtered. I witnessed it with my eyes.’"
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