PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — President Trump and first lady Melania Trump want to meet the families of the victims of the Tree of Life mass killing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced on Monday.
“Tomorrow, the President and first lady will travel to Pennsylvania to express the support of the American people and grieve with the Pittsburgh community,” Sanders said.
But not everyone wants the president here, including two Jewish groups that have addressed a letter to him and circulated an online petition with this message: “It is extremely disrespectful, and you are not welcome,” said Ella Mason with If Not Now PGH.
Mason says the president should stay away.
“President Trump’s rhetoric and President Trump’s policies paved the way for the type of white nationalist violence that has devastated our community,” Mason told KDKA political Jon Delano.
“Please stay away from Pittsburgh. We’re mourning. We really need some time alone, and his presence is not helping us,” Ardon Shorr said.
An online petition by Bend-the-Arc opposing the visit has gathered over 40,000 signatures.
“He doesn’t serve to help our community or as I see it any community other than white nationalists, and white nationalism is really at the root of the problem here,” Ren Finkel said.
But Sanders vigorously rejects any notion the president condones rhetoric or actions against Jews.
“The president cherishes the American Jewish community for everything it stands for and contributes to our country. He adores Jewish Americans as part of his own family. The president is the grandfather of several Jewish grandchildren. His daughter is a Jewish American and his son-in-law is a descendant of Holocaust survivors,” said Sanders on Monday.
Rabbi Jeff Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue is crystal clear.
“The President of the United States is always welcome. I’m a citizen. He’s my president. He’s certainly welcome,” Myers said.
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Whatever the president decides to do in Pittsburgh, everyone says the same thing. These funerals are for the mourners, their loved ones, family and friends.
And whatever elected officials show up, they should be there to mourn with them, not to create a political event.
“We welcome the support of the president,” says Adam Hertzman with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
“In Jewish Pittsburgh, it’s important for us to represent the views of the entire community. And we have people who are ardent Democrats, people who are ardent Republicans, people who support the president, and people who don’t,” Hetzman said.
Meghan Schiller’s Report:
The Jewish community of Pittsburgh, like so many other communities, is very politically diverse. which means you will find lots of folks who will say the office of the presidency deserves great respect.
You’ll also find a lot of people who will say the president is part of the problem.
Regardless of political views, everyone says this is a time for mourning, not politics.
“If I had a message for political leaders, I would say, I really hope that you consider the needs of the immediate family and friends of those in need, of the people who passed away,” Hertzman said.