A shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue has left at least 11 dead, including Penn alumnus Jerry Rabinowitz. Several hours after the shooting, which occurred on Saturday morning, Penn President Amy Gutmann released a statement condemning the deadly attack and the wave of gun shootings that has taken place across the nation.
Rabinowitz was a two-time Penn student, graduating from the College with a degree in biochemistry in 1973, and then from the Perelman School of Medicine in 1977. He worked as a geriatrician in Bloomfield, Pittsburgh, according to the US News and World Report.
Ben Schmitt, a writer at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, wrote a eulogy commemorating Rabinowitz on Sunday. Schmitt included quotes from his own father, who was a longtime patient of the Penn graduate.
"He was a really remarkable guy in everything he did,” Schmitt's father recalled. “Every time I would see him, he would do the exam and he would then take me into his office and we talked. There was no rush to get out of his office. It was like I was the only patient he had — and I know that’s not true.”
The suspect in the shooting, Robert Bowers, 46, opened fire at the Tree of Life Congregation in eastern Pittsburgh and attacked during a service, Pennsylvania’s attorney general told the Associated Press. Bowers later surrendered to the police after barricading himself inside an office. It was later found that he frequently posted anti-Jewish slurs and anti-semitic conspiracy theories on social media, The New York Times reported. He is expected to face hate crime charges.
In response, Gutmann posted a statement on her personal Facebook page several hours following the shooting.
"I know I speak on behalf of the entire Penn community in saying how horrified I am at the unconscionable, despicable acts of violence perpetrated against members of the Tree of Life Synagogue earlier today," Gutmann wrote.
College seniors Debbie Rabinovich and Cooper Robinson, the co-chairs of the Penn Reform Jewish Community, posted a joint statement on the RJC Facebook page on Sunday.
"We encourage everyone to reflect and recover first, and then to consider their role in making the world a place in which anti-semitism, xenophobia, racism, and gun violence are no more," they wrote. "Our freedom and our healing is bound to that of all marginalized communities, and the privilege within the Jewish community must move us to action in solidarity with others."
Since the shooting, groups across the nation have held vigils to honor the lives of those lost in the attack. On Saturday night, hundreds of Philadelphians gathered in Rittenhouse Square to mourn the victims.
Penn Hillel will host the Penn Vigil for Pittsburgh at 4 p.m. on Oct. 29 at the LOVE statue on College Green. Students will host a Shabbat service on Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. in the second floor offices of Hillel. On Nov. 2, RJC will hold Shabbat services at 6 p.m.
The Anti-Defamation League said the shooting is "likely the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States," according to a statement.
In its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic incidents, the ADL found there were 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2017 — a 57 percent increase from the prior year and the second largest yearly total since the group had begun tracking them in 1979.
“It’s a very horrific crime scene,” Wendell D. Hissrich, Pittsburgh’s public safety director, told reporters. “It’s one of the worst that I’ve seen, and I’ve been on some plane crashes. It’s very bad.”
In her statement, Gutmann also condemned the ongoing trend of mass gun shootings across the U.S.
"What a sad and horrifying day it is for our entire country. That these shootings and other acts of violence occur with such frequency is an ongoing national tragedy," she wrote.
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