Three more funerals were held Wednesday in Pittsburgh as the city continued to mourn the deaths of 11 Jewish worshippers gunned down in last weekend’s mass shooting at a synagogue.
Hundreds of friends gathered to pay tribute to Melvin Wax, 88, who was leading Sabbath services on Saturday when the suspected gunman, Robert Bowers, burst into the Tree of Life synagogue shouting, “All Jews must die!” and opened fire. Funerals also were held for retired real estate agent Irving Younger, 69, and retired university researcher Joyce Fienberg, 75. The funerals followed three on Tuesday for other victims and ahead of the remaining five set for later in the week.
Meanwhile, a grand jury indicted Bowers, a 46-year-old truck driver alleged to have posted vitriolic anti-Semitic rants online, on 44 charges. The indictment accused him of a string of gun and hate crimes, including obstructing the victims’ right to the free exercise of their religious beliefs. He is awaiting arraignment on the charges, likely at a hearing Thursday.
In announcing the indictment, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the alleged crimes “are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Therefore, this case is not only important to the victims and their loved ones, but to the city of Pittsburgh and the entire nation.”
The funerals and the indictment of Bowers came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the synagogue, placing a stone at each of the 11 Stars of David set up outside the synagogue. Placing stones at a grave or remembrance site is an ancient Jewish tradition.
Trump also met with police officers wounded by gunfire in a shootout as they apprehended Bowers and spent an hour talking with Peg Durachko, whose husband, Dr. Richard Gottfried, was among the 11 killed.
“Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh,” Trump said on Twitter. “The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad & solemn day. We were treated so warmly.”
Several thousand protesters demonstrated in the streets during Trump’s visit, contending that his rhetoric helped fuel the gunman’s anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant views against a Jewish group that aids refugees arriving in the U.S. from overseas. Trump complained about news coverage of the several hours he spent in Pittsburgh.
“Small protest was not seen by us, staged far away,” he said. “The Fake News stories were just the opposite-Disgraceful!”
Trump shook hands with the synagogue's rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.
Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner — wearing a Jewish yarmulke — and daughter Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism when she married Kushner, accompanied the first couple to offer their condolences.
"The president was very moved by the visit and his time with the rabbi and called it very humbling and sad," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.
The Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked hatred and violence against Jews since the 1970s, said the Pittsburgh mayhem was the worst attack against the Jewish community in U.S. history.
Source: VOA news