By Jessica Resnick-Ault
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – Pittsburgh’s Jewish community was gathering on Tuesday to bury the first victims of the deadliest attack on the U.S. Jewish community as critics prepared to protest President Donald Trump’s visit to the city.
Among the funerals planned for the 11 congregants shot to death at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill section on Saturday were those of two brothers, David Rosenthal, 54, and his brother Cecil Rosenthal, 59.
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, will also be buried on Tuesday.
Robert Bowers, 46, is accused of storming into the synagogue yelling “All Jews must die” and opening fire on members of three congregations holding Sabbath prayer services there.
Bowers was ordered held without bail in a federal court on Monday.
The attack has heightened a national debate over Trump’s political rhetoric, which his critics say has contributed to a surge in right-wing extremism in the United States.
The Trump administration has rejected the notion he has encouraged white nationalists and neo-Nazis who have embraced him.
Trump said he would visit hospitalized police officers and other people wounded in the mass shooting.
“I’m just going to pay my respects,” Trump told Fox News on Monday night. “I would have done it even sooner, but I didn’t want to disrupt anymore than they already had disruption.”
His visit comes just a week ahead of midterm elections that will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Congress.
Members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community said they would protest against Trump. In an announcement for a protest to be held on Tuesday afternoon, organizers said, “President Trump, words have consequences.”
“The gunman who tore apart our neighborhood believed your lies about the immigrant caravan in Mexico,” the announcement read, referring to a group of migrants who are trekking through Mexico toward the United States. “He believed antisemitic lies that Jews were funding the caravan”
‘YOU ARE NOT WELCOME’
The announcement also echoed an open letter from a group of local Jewish leaders who told Trump: “You are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.”
More than 43,000 people have signed the letter, organized and posted online by the Pittsburgh chapter of Bend the Arc, a Jewish organization opposed to what it calls “the immoral agenda of the Trump administration and the Republican Party.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he was also against Trump’s visit because it would coincide with the first funerals.
Peduto said Trump should wait until all the funerals were held, adding that the visit and additional security measures entailed would distract attention from the “priority” of burying the dead.
On Monday, a U.S. magistrate judge ordered the suspect, Bowers, to be held without bond. The one-time truck driver, who frequently posted anti-Semitic material online and was described by neighbors as a loner, was charged with 29 federal felony counts. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Prosecutors have said they are treating the mass shooting as a hate crime.
In addition to the 11 mostly elderly worshipers who were killed, six people, including four police officers, were wounded before the suspect was shot by police and surrendered. Two of the surviving victims remained hospitalized in critical condition.
(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Paul Simao)