WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday visited Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, the site of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.
The president, First Lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were joined at the house of worship by its rabbi, Jeffrey Myers.
The first family spent approximately 20 minutes in the vestibule of the synagogue, where the White House said the president was expected to light 11 candles — one for each of the shooting victims. The group reportedly did not enter the synagogue’s main sanctuary, which is still considered an active crime scene.
On Saturday, a gunman opened fire inside the synagogue in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
In addition to the 11 killed, the shooter wounded at least half a dozen others — including four police officers who had rushed into the building.
After arresting the suspect on the scene following a shoot-out, police identified him as Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old Baldwin, Pennsylvania resident with a long history of anti-Semitic and white nationalist rhetoric online.
Trump’s announced trip to the city was met with controversy.
On Monday, Mayor Bill Peduto told local reporters that Trump should postpone a visit until after the victims’ funerals are held and the city is prepared for his visit. Several funerals were held today. The mayor had indicated he would not meet with the president.
In addition, a coalition of 11 progressive Jewish leaders from Pittsburgh sent a letter to the president on Sunday telling him that he was not welcome in the city until he denounces white nationalism and stops targeting minorities, immigrants and refugees in his rhetoric.
The White House acknowledged the letter Monday, but largely dismissed it. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders stated that Trump has repeatedly denounced hate groups and adding that Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said Trump is welcome to visit.
Once in Pittsburgh, the president’s visit also drew protesters, some of whom were heard down the road as Trump entered the synagogue. They yelled “words have meaning” and “no more hate,” references to Trump’s divisive rhetoric.
After leaving the synagogue, the group viewed the 11 makeshift Star of David memorials erected outside with the names of each victim. The president put one rock atop each of them, and the first lady placed white roses.
The first family then departed for the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital to visit several of the wounded victims. According to the White House, he was to meet with two of the synagogue’s members and two police officers. The other two wounded police officers have been discharged.