Houston Jewish community reacts after deadly Pittsburgh synagogue attack

HPD increases police presence at local synagogues

HOUSTON – Houston leaders in the Jewish community are speaking out after several people were shot and killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning.

A press conference was held at 3 p.m. at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston.

Joel Dinkin, CEO of the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community, said his father was an executive director of the Tree of Life congregation, where the shooting took place, for 25 years. He has since retired but typically attends Shabbat at the synagogue. 

Dinkin said everyone he knows in the Squirrel Hill community of Pittsburgh is shocked and frightened by what he says is prevalent anti-Semitism.

“Its out there it's going to continue to be out there till our society figures out how we all going to live with each other and deal with some of the hatred,” he said. 

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum released a statement condemning the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday. 

Here is the full statement. 

"The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum strongly condemns the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and sends its deepest sympathies to the victims and families of those who were callously murdered. 

"Before opening fire, the alleged perpetrator reportedly yelled, "All Jews must die!" The Museum reminds all Americans of the dangers of unchecked hatred and antisemitism which must be confronted wherever they appear and calls on all Americans to actively work to promote social solidarity and respect the dignity of all individuals.

"A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.

Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org."

Local leaders release statements in light of deadly shooting

Texas Rep. Pete Olson released the following statement after the mass shooting:

"I am devastated by the brutal attack in Pittsburgh today. Anti-Semitism, hatred and violence have no place in our country and will not be tolerated. Thank you to our brave police and first responders for their quick action to help the victims and apprehend the attacker. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families as they recover from this tragedy."

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city of Houston will not tolerate hate or violence against any group.

"The City of Houston will not tolerate hate and violence against any group no matter who the perpetrator(s) may be. The fatal shooting of Jews and law enforcement officers must be condemned by all of us," Turner tweeted.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement and called for prayer and action to put an end to violence:

"This morning violence, once again, struck one of our communities, this time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It is apparent at least eight souls lost their lives in a shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue. To our brothers and sisters of the Jewish community, we stand with you. We condemn all acts of violence and hate and yet again, call on our nation and public officials to confront the plague of gun violence. 

"Violence as a response to political, racial, or religious differences must be confronted with all possible effort. God asks nothing less of us. He begs us back to our common humanity as His sons and daughters.

"I commend to our Lord the victims, including first responders, and for the consolation of their families.  May Almighty God be with them and bring them comfort at this tragic time."

Shaykh Waleed Basyouni, imam and director of Clear Lake Islamic Center released the following statement:

"It is with heavy hearts that we send our condolences to your congregation and the Jewish community. The senseless act of violence which you suffered today is mourned by all people of conscience including ourselves.

"We condemn such violence and pray that incidents like this may cease. Too many innocent lives have been taken and too many tears have been shed.

"Hate crimes are steadily on the rise, particularly against the American Jewish community. Crimes targeting people because of their faith are absolutely wrong, evil and unacceptable.

"One remedy to this violence is to love and care for our neighbors. We stand with you in friendship and peace and offer our assistance in whatever way your community needs. Our hearts are broken over your loss."

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee released a statement on Twitter:



Are anti-Semitic incidents on the rise?

Dina Marks, who is with the anti-defamation in southwest Houston, said anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise both nationally and regionally. 

In 2017, Marks said there was a 57 percent increase over 2016, which is the largest one-year increase in a while. In Houston, from El Paso to Beaumont excluding Austin, anti-Semitic incidents have more than doubled. 

“I think some of the political discourse and rhetoric has enabled haters to feel like they can do these things and perhaps get away with them and find more people that agree with them,” Marks said. 

Local authorities react to synagogue shooting

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said there will be an increase of police presence at local synagogues and advised people to be vigilant and report all crimes or threats to authorities.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office tweeted that deputies will make their presence known at synagogues throughout the weekend and advised people to also be vigilant in light of Saturday's mass shooting in Pittsburgh.

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