Hundreds of people have gathered to pay their respects to the 11 victims of the deadliest attack on Jews in US history. Critics have accused President Trump of fueling the violence ahead of his visit to Pittsburgh.
More than 1,000 mourners gathered around Rodef Shalom, Pittsburgh's oldest synagogue, on Tuesday for funeral services for the victims of the deadliest attack on Jews in modern US history.
A funeral for brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal was one of the first after the shooting. Eleven people were gunned down on Saturday while attending Sabbath services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
"That really crushes me, they were such sweet men," Arlene Wolk, a teacher who knew them both, told news agency AFP. "I still can't believe that someone could be that hateful to walk into a house of worship and just kill people."
'Trump Go Home'
US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump offered condolences at the synagogue. They were greeted by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who led them inside the temple. The two later went to a memorial outside the building and placed white roses and stones from the White House on each of the 11 stars representing a victim of Saturday's shooting.
They were joined by Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump placed a flower and a small stone on a marker for each of the shooting victims.
Hundreds of protesters, many of them Jews, held a protest march against Trump as his visit began, shouting "Leave Pittsburgh, leave Pennsylvania" and carrying signs that read "We build bridges not walls" and "Trump Go Home."
Critics have accused Trump of fueling violence against minorities, including the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. In 2017, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the US rose by 57 percent, "the largest single-year increase on record," according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The lobby group logged 1,986 incidents.
Earlier, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, both Democrats, said that they would not meet with Trump and that the victims' relatives had made it clear they didn't want the president at the funeral services.
Pence under fire for 'Christian rabbi' prayer
American Jews have criticized US Vice President Mike Pence for hosting an event with a self-declared "Christian rabbi."
Pence joined a campaign rally in Detroit late on Monday for Jewish Republican Lena Epstein, who is running for the House of Representatives.
Loren Jacobs uses the title "rabbi" but identifies as a Messianic Jew, someone who considers Jesus to be the Messiah but also adheres to some Jewish traditions. The religious offshoot is not acknowledged as a form of Judaism by the major Jewish denominations.
Jacobs was invited to the rally to speak on behalf of the Jewish community and pray for the victims of Saturday's attack. Instead, he offered a prayer for Pence that at one point referred to "Jesus the Messiah."
"I pray that you will enable Vice President Pence to fulfill his many and important responsibilities with excellence," Jacobs said. Critics accused Pence of attempting to steer the narrative, labeling him as a "Christian supremacist."
"Messianic 'Judaism' branch is a branch of Christianity and offensive to the Jewish community. Lena Epstein knew this and so did Pence and his team. This wasn't ecumenical; it was an insulting political stunt," said Detroit Rabbi Jason Miller, who noted that there are more than 60 official rabbis in the state of Michigan.
ap, ls/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)