Pittsburgh Mayor Visits Synagogue Shooting Memorial in Israel, Contrasts Response to Anti-Semitism with WWII

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto III speaking at the KKL-JNF event on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Rafi Ben Hakun, KKL-JNF

After the shooting attack at the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, a key Israeli organization wanted to show that the Jewish State felt connected to the victims in the United States by setting up a memorial. On Sunday, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto returned the sentiment by visiting the memorial during his time in Israel for the International Mayor’s Conference.

While there, Peduto contrasted the response to the anti-Semitic attack with the ambivalence around the beginning of World War II. “Unlike 80 years ago, when Jews were murdered, when synagogues were destroyed and businesses were shattered, when the community called this time, the police didn’t turn their back, they ran in to help. Politicians didn’t look the other way or try to hide, they stood up and said never again. And business leaders and community leaders gathered as one and said ‘an attack against one is an attack against us all,’” Puduto was quoted by an Israeli press release as saying on Sunday.

The Keren Kayemet L’Israel-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), which set up the memorial, arranged for Peduto to plant an olive tree “to symbolize peace and continuity,” according to the press release. For the mayor, it was more than just a political ceremony—Puduto noted that he knew some of the victims of the shooting personally.

The press statement underscored the importance of connections, noting that after the attack occurred, the KKL-JNF leadership decided upon setting up the symbolic memorial in Jerusalem “as part of the unyielding commitment and dedication KKL-JNF has for the Jewish Diaspora.”

That bond with those outside Israel was also expressed by the leader of the Conservative religious movement in Israel during the event with the Pittsburgh Mayor.

Speaking on behalf of the KKL-JNF, Head of the Mesorti-Conservative Movement in Israel Dr. Yizhar Hess was quoted by the press release as telling the mayor, “I would like to thank you for taking the time to visit this symbolic memorial for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.

“This event and the leadership displayed after the attack made Israelis feel as if we are also people of Pittsburgh, we were there following the news, feeling the pain of it as well. We felt that having this plaque here with the names of the victims listed in Jerusalem was important, and would only strengthen the link between our two communities.”

Last year, that bond was highlighted in the wake of horrific anti-Semitism. On Sunday, that bond was experienced in person as they honored the victims, but it goes further than just this one event.

On Sunday, JNF-USA CEO Russel Robinson was quoted by the press release as saying of the link between Israel and the United States, “We know that when tragedy befalls either of our communities, we stand together to strengthen one-another. We are proud to represent the Pittsburgh community in Israel as an enduring reminder of this unshakeable bond.”

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, February 24, 2019)

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