Tree of Life archive

Jeffrey and Edward Clark U.S. Department of Justice

Man Who Called Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre a ‘Dry Run’ Arrested

Thirty-year-old Jeffrey Clark reportedly appeared in federal court Tuesday


17:37 1 comments

Police arrested a man in Washington, D.C. with social media connections to Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers, according to CBS reporting. Bowers opened fire while yelling “kill all the Jews” on Oct. 27, killing 11 people, in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Thirty-year-old Jeffrey Clark reportedly appeared in federal court Tuesday. He is facing one federal count of unlawful possession of firearms by a person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance, in addition to one count in the District of Columbia of possessing high-capacity magazines.

Court papers allege that Clark was “friends” with Bowers. Clark reportedly posted a picture of Bowers on, a website popular with the so-called alt-right and white supremacists, with language attached that insinuates a continuation of violence against Jewish communities: “This was a dry run for things to come.”

Clark’s arrest came after family told investigators that Clark was having outbursts. They also alleged that Clark said the shooting victims from the Tree of Life shooting “deserved it.”

Court documents said family members also told police that Clark defended the synagogue shooting suspect, and that he and his now-deceased brother had allegedly fantasized about killing blacks and Jews.

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Clark’s brother killed himself just hours after the synagogue shooting, authorities said.

The FBI last week reported a 37 percent spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes in 2017.

Demonstrators carry confederate and Nazi flags during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017.Emily Molli / NurPhoto

Anti-Jewish Hate Crimes in U.S. Rose by 37 Percent in 2017, FBI Says

Hate crimes rise for third year in a row, with religion-based hate crimes increasing by 23 percent

The Associated Press

13.11.2018 | 19:15

The FBI says hate crimes reports were up about 17 percent in 2017, marking a rise for the third year in a row.

An annual report released Tuesday shows there were more than 7,100 reported hate crimes last year. There were increases in attacks motivated by racial bias, religious bias and because of a victim’s sexual orientation.

The report shows there was a nearly 23 percent increase in religion-based hate crimes. There was a 37 percent spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who was appointed last week following the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions, says the report is a “call to action.” He says the offenses were “despicable violations of our core values as Americans.”

The FBI says although the number of attacks has increased, so has the number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate-crime data.

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‘All Jews Must Die’: Shooter Kills 11 in Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack

The report comes two weeks after the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The gunman, Robert Bowers, yelled “all Jews must die,” before killing 11 people. Six others, including four police officers, were wounded before the perpetrator was arrested.

Flowers and other items have been left as memorials outside the Tree of Life synagogue following last Saturday’s shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 3, 2018\ ALAN FREED/ REUTERS

A Moving Shabbat Prayer in Pittsburgh – and Why It Sparked My Outrage

Tree of Life Rabbi Myers warned Trump on dangers of hate speech but didn’t seem to leave much of an impression

Chemi Shalev

04.11.2018 | 14:41 24 comments

PITTSBURGH – In many Jewish synagogues across the U.S., the main sanctuaries are in use only on special occasions. Declining attendance has turned once teeming auditoriums into monuments of glories past. On Saturday, however, sanctuaries throughout the U.S. were packed, none more so than Pittsburgh’s conservative Beth Shalom synagogue, which played host to the bereaved members of the Tree of Life and Ohr Hadash congregations, who lost 11 of their friends in Robert Bowersmurderous rampage last week. They have been exiled from their own synagogue by the Pittsburgh police, which continues to regard the Tree of Life building in Squirrel Hill as a crime scene, though they’ve promised to return it to its rightful owners by Tuesday.

The crowd streamed into Beth Shalom’s magnificent main sanctuary, with its tall stained glass windows and elaborate podium. Many of them were refreshingly young, belying, at least on this somber occasion, the well-known pattern of aging Jewish congregations. Most seemed to know each other, but there were many newcomers and first-timers as well, including non-Jews. The locals hugged each other in consolation and to give each other strength. “We’ve had a tough week,” one woman told me, in the understatement of the year.

>> Pittsburgh was never anti-Semitic. Trump and the internet changed that | Opinion ■ Israelis’ post-Pittsburgh defense of Trump isn’t just realpolitik | Opinion ■  While Trump is president, violence against Jews will keep rising. We must prepare accordingly | Opinion 

Other than the babies, who answer to no one, the crowd stayed unusually quiet and attentive throughout the unduly long five-hour service. They seemed to be following every word of prayer, as if hearing them for the first time. They responded emphatically and on cue at the appropriate moments, as if their words, which devout Jews recite on a daily basis, had acquired a whole new meaning. Their grief and sadness was mitigated by their strong sense of community and by the power of their restraint.

You didn’t have to be religious, or even Jewish for that matter, to be moved.

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Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, who attended the prayers, thankfully refrained from emulating other official Israeli consolers, who drew false equivalencies between leftist radicals and white supremacists and were overly enthusiastic in their defense of Donald Trump.

Herzog noted the unity of prayer between Jews of varying denominations, saying that it was the only possible answer to the atrocity perpetrated by Bowers. It sent a message of love, unity, friendship and peace, Herzog said, uttering words that are lingua franca among American Jews but shunned by their Israeli counterparts as hopelessly naive.

Israel, in fact, was not mentioned at all by the other speakers, with the exception of the traditional prayer for its wellbeing, which is now a regular staple in Conservative and most Reform congregations. If only Israelis prayed for the safety and wellbeing of American Jews, I thought to myself, instead of taking them for granted.

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump stand with Rabbi Jeffrey Myers as they place stones at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagoguein Pittsburgh, October 30, 2018 \ KEVIN LAMARQUE/ REUTERS

More problematic, perhaps, was the Prayer For Our Country, i.e., the U.S., which includes a request that God bless “our leader.” In the days of Trump, many liberal rabbis either omit this appeal or utter it under protest. Trump nonetheless played a prominent role in the sermon given by Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, which was actually more of an attempt to rebuff the criticism directed at him for agreeing to host Trump at the scene of the crime last week.

>> American Jews may never forgive Israel for its reaction to the Pittsburgh massacre | Analysis ■ U.S. synagogues wrestle with new security challenges after Pittsburgh massacre ■ From Pittsburgh to Paris, five lessons for Jews everywhere | Analysis

Myers recounted what he perceived as a genuine emotional moment, when Trump placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. He seemed to be genuinely shocked by the details of the synagogue massacre, Myers asserted.  Melania Trump, Myers said, was even more shocked by her husband’s apparently unusual show of emotion.

Myers repeatedly recounted that he had told the President that “hate speech leads to hateful action,” an admonition that Trump probably thought was directed at everyone except for him. Within a few hours of lighting 11 memorial candles at the site where the Jews were killed, he was back at it, and with a vengeance. In his campaign rallies over the past few days, in fact, Trump has doubled down on his inflammatory rhetoric on the imminent immigrant “invasion,” using the exact same words that Bowers took from him as a rationale for the mass murder of Jews in the first place.

The audience applauded Myers’ reasoning for greeting Trump, which included the biblical mitzvah of hosting strangers, the moral imperative of not answering hate with more hate and the fact that he is, after the all, the President of the United States. Not everyone was happy though. My elderly neighbor in the back row leaned over and said, “We have to do something about that man.” Before she went on to spell out exactly what she had in mind, I quickly said “First, let’s wait for Tuesday’s elections,” which seemed to satisfy her, for the time being at least.

As for myself, if you will allow me, I admit to being unusually stirred by the service. At first it was pure nostalgia, because the tunes and hymns sung by the congregation were identical to those I sang on every Shabbat during four years that I spent in Los Angeles as a child. I was also touched by the mutual solidarity and empathy shown by the Pittsburgh Jews. And I was undoubtedly impressed by the admirable conduct of the congregants, by their goodwill, by their care for each other, by their pledge, despite their anger and grief, to devote even more time and energy to promoting understanding and goodwill amongst themselves and with other minority communities, most notably Muslims.

It’s no small matter that Pittsburgh Muslims raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help refurbish the Tree of Life synagogue. To my closed Middle Eastern mind, the words of Wasi Mohamed, executive director the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, at the memorial vigil held last week to honor the slain Jews, bordered on the miraculous: “We just want to know what you need,” he told the Jews and their leaders. “If it’s more money, let us know. If it’s people outside your next service protecting you, let us know — we’ll be there….  If you just need somebody to come to the grocery store because you don’t feel safe in this city, we’ll be there and I’m sure everybody in the room would say the same thing. We’re here for the community.”

Wasi Mohamed from the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh is hugged by a rabbi during a service to honor the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting at the Tree Of Life synagogue, October 28, 2018. AFP

Which is when outrage began to consume me. I had no doubt that Mohamed’s sympathy was enabled by the Muslim recognition that the Jewish community, in Pittsburgh and elsewhere, may differ with him over Israel and the occupation, but stands shoulder to shoulder as minorities who feel threatened in the age of Donald Trump. For over a century, American Jews have been at the forefront of almost every meaningful campaign for human and civil rights – especially those of other minorities.

Their Orthodox critics, especially in Israel, claim with disdain that liberalism has replaced Judaism as the main religion of American Jews. Anyone who attended the prayers at Beth Shalom on Saturday would see how ridiculous the claim is, at least for those Jews who choose to remain affiliated with Jewish institutions. In any case, is the American Jewish dedication to safeguarding minorities really something to be ashamed of? Is it more shameful to be a Jew who cherishes Tikkun Olam than one who bases the occupation and the subjugation of Palestinians on biblical texts?

I looked around at the women and men sitting together at Beth Shalom, sharing the responsibility of conducting the complex service, and an age old question popped into my mind: Who is a Jew? And how is it that the State of Israel, my country, has willingly subjugated itself to fundamentalist Jews who live by moral codes formulated hundreds of years ago and petrified ever since? Why have secular Israelis succumbed to a movement that blindly follows rabbis whose spiritual leadership is based on being born to their fathers, that denies women any role in public life, that is obsessed with the purity of Jewish blood, that is concerned with Jews and Jews alone, but only if they follow the rules; a movement that, were it not Jewish, would comply with all the criteria of a cult.

Muslims guarding the doors at New York’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah #ShowUpForShabbat services remembering Pittsburgh shooting attack victims, November 2, 2018. Gili Getz

And don’t get me started on the perverted fusion of religion and Jewish nationalism that drives Israeli policy today. And these retrograde Jews, who lord over marriage and divorce in Israel and who hold all Israeli coalitions in the palms of their hands – they have the chutzpah to deny recognition for American Jews who prefer to live the 21st Century rather than the 19th? Give me a break.

Those who came to Beth Shalom synagogue in Pittsburgh are no less Jewish than their Orthodox Israeli brethren who shun and mock them. To my mind, in fact, they’re even more. Which is why I am now trying to figure out whether Israelis can declare themselves American Jews as well.  If it’s possible, I plan to be the first to volunteer.

Mel Bernstein.Screen grab from YouTube.

Jewish Gun Shop Owner Offers Rabbis Free Rifles After Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Mel Bernstein, who owns Dragon Arms near Colorado Springs, offered to give rabbis semi-automatic guns, estimated at $650 each ■ ‘Armed clergy sends the wrong message,’ ADL representative in Colorado says


03.11.2018 | 18:05

The Jewish owner of a gun shop in Colorado has offered to give rabbis semi-automatic rifles for free following the murder of 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Mel Bernstein, who owns Dragon Arms near Colorado Springs, made the offer in an item aired Wednesday on KOAA-TV’s News5.


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Local gun shop owner offers rabbis free weapons

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Jewish gun shop owner offers rabbis free weapons.

“Lets say there’s a fire in a synagogue. What do you grab? You grab a fire extinguisher right?” Bernstein, who goes by the name Dragonman, said on the NBC affiliate’s program. “OK, lets say somebody comes in and starts shooting everybody. What are you going to grab? You grab your AR-15 or a rifle or a handgun.”

During the shooting Saturday, “people sitting in the synagogue, they were sitting ducks,” and “nobody’s stopping him,” Bernstein said of the shooter, who authorities say was right-wing extremist Robert Bowers. “You have to have the tool to fight back, and this is the tool, and I’m donating these to the rabbis.”

>> Guns, Trump and anti-Semitism: Pittsburgh shooting highlights vast divide between liberal U.S. Jews and Israel

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Each gun that Bernstein hopes to give the local religious leaders is valued at an estimated $650, and the store was clear that each rabbi would have to pass a background check to take possession of the weapon, the Western Journal reported.

Rabbi Jeff Ader of Temple Beit Torah in Colorado Springs told KOAA that he thought the offer was very generous and thoughtful, and that he’d have to think about it. Ader also talked to Bersntein about giving some people the concealed weapons training he offers.

Another local rabbi said he’d prefer not to comment on the offer, News5 reported.

Scott Levin of the Anti-Defamation League serving Colorado told News5 that a rabbi with a gun causes image issues and a potential disruption of the sanctity of a synagogue. Levin also said that he believes there should be panic buttons installed and that he’s fine with armed security personnel, but that armed clergy sends the wrong message.

After the shootings, U.S. President Donald Trump said, “This is a case where if they had an armed guard inside, they may have been able to stop him immediately. Maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him maybe.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is Jewish, rejected the idea.

“I certainly don’t agree with his suggestion that this could have been avoided or mitigated if they’d had someone armed in the synagogue. That’s not the answer,” The Guardian quoted Schiff as saying. “The broader issue is what kind of climate are we creating in the country.”


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