A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting (2022) Movie Script

The Tree of Life, Or L'Simcha
October 27, 2018.
Shots fired! Shots fired!
871 shots fired!
Give me all additional resources.
34-23, 34-24.
5898 Wilkins Avenue.
One of my elder daughters
came running in and asked
did Bubbie go to shul today?
That's about when my stomach fell out
and I knew something was wrong.
We got a text from somebody
that just said active shooter
at Tree of Life synagogue.
I said the boys are there.
In our hearts
we knew. We knew. We just felt it.
I turned the corner
onto Wilkins Avenue.
And was looking for the parking lot
and I saw my brother
walking into the building.
That's the last time I saw him alive.
I was facing forward,
I could not...
I did not see what was
going on behind me.
Until I heard this sound.
And I turned around
to see what the sound was.
And there was the man with the gun.
I turned around
and Audrey was going
over to the left side
and I followed behind her.
Audrey and I went up
and we found this room
with all kinds of junk in it.
And we hid in there.
There was a window in the door
and so when we realized that
we made ourselves look like
as much as we could, the bags
of clothing that were in there.
I guess they're donations.
She heard Bernice cry out
when her husband was shot.
I don't recall hearing that.
All I remember was...
was the man with the gun.
We couldn't run.
We were in the back, in our seats.
And I just told my mother
I said just get down.
And I think we both got shot
before we went down
As I got into the doorway
there were a series of
probably four or five shots
And as I'm standing in the doorway
I could see shell casings bouncing
across the floor in front of me.
And having that shootout.
With these four officers
that were shot.
I mean when I think about it...
Jerry and I looked at each other.
Jerry's a doctor. I'm a nurse.
I thought that somehow
we could be helpful.
And so we moved
in the direction of the gunfire.
And as you know Jerry was killed.
And I was wounded.
I just laid on the floor.
I didn't move.
And I was bleeding a lot.
I think I must have been in shock.
My mother was lying right by me.
And I couldn't... I couldn't look.
I just stayed there until
somebody came through.
When the police came on scene
the shooter actually ended up
going into the school wing.
Normally on a Saturday morning
my son and I would be there
to do a junior congregation.
One shabbat a month
we didn't have junior congregation.
This happened to be that one shabbat.
Normally my son would have been
sitting in the front lobby entry
waiting for the kids to come in.
When I got up, I just told
my mother I loved her.
I had to go, I had to live.
So. I... I knew
she wasn't gonna survive.
These cowardly assassins were
going after small vulnerable places.
you know, the shooter killed about
half the people in the building.
Half the people survived.
Eleven dead.
The Jewish people have been here
on these shores 355 years.
And if you think about anti-semitism
which has been prevalent
all 355 years.
Yeah it's surprising,
well what took so long.
It was inevitable that
there was gonna be an attack
of this nature on a synagogue.
This is even before I was born.
But it's my aunts and uncles,
my grandmother and grandfather.
My brother, bless his memory.
The two elderly folks in front
with a child between them
are my grandmother and grandfather.
This whole thing is falling apart.
Growing up the holidays were amazing.
My Bubbie and Zaydee,
my grandmother and grandfather
had a little apartment
in Terrace Village
up in the Hill District.
And Passover would come
and the relatives would come in
from all over.
Chicago, New York, Steubenville.
And we'd all settle around this table
in the middle of
their living room. And
by the time the Seder would start,
of course you'd start the Seder late
the kids were underneath
the table, sound asleep
because they had sampled
the wine, okay?
And as orthodox as my Zaydee was
he wanted to get
the kinderlach home to bed.
He didn't think it was right that
they stay up until 1 or 2 o'clock
in the morning for a Seder.
So he had a tendency to try
and skip pages on the... Seder book.
And, it was... it was amazing
because he'd go so far
and then he'd turn the page.
And my Bubbie, oh,
she was a character.
Jacob, you missed a page!
Jacob, you forgot,
you didn't do the line! Jacob!
What about this!
And my Zaydee of bless
his memory would say
shah, still.
The Kinderlach have
to get home to bed.
Shah, still.
It was hilarious.
I came to Pittsburgh
when I was nine years old.
My father was moving around
a lot, his...
he was shaping his medical career.
It was more of a mix than...
than what we had in Milwaukee.
Like, I remember in Milwaukee
that a girl who was older than me
told me that the Jews killed Christ.
That was the first time
I'd ever heard about that.
So I always appreciated Pittsburgh.
I remember in 1979
the Pittsburgh Pirates won
the world series
and the captain
of the team Willie Stargell
kept on referring
to the Pirates as the family
and there was a song that was popular
at the time called We Are Family.
We are family
And all the fans would sing it
all the time.
It really thrilled me to feel
part of this great family and
we would sing it all the time.
It was funny because
it said we are family
I got all my sisters with me
which really didn't refer
to the Pirates so much
but in my family
where I only had sisters
it was very special to me
to be able to sing about
having all my sisters with me.
I didn't feel like
watching the Steelers today
'cause I was afraid they would lose.
But I have to get the score.
The Pittsburgh Steelers
won 17 to 10!
Mazel tov!
My father would be very happy.
There are writers who say
we are born, we suffer, and we die.
The whole of life in eight words.
And I say
we are born, we laugh, and we die.
Anyway... that gives you
an idea of the kind of person I am.
Should I talk
with my hands on the table?
Should I talk
with my hands on my lap?
Should I cross my legs? Should I...
...if it makes you feel
able to speak...
I'm likely to use my hands
because I always do.
I live in Greenfield,
but everyone calls it Squirrel Hill
cause I'm near the border.
And in fact, in Squirrel Hill
Squirrel Hill itself has never been
more than 40% Jewish.
But the flavor of the neighborhood
has been all the businesses
that were owned and...
And loudly proclaiming
buy kosher meat here
and whatever it made it
seem like a Jewish community.
I knew them.
I sat in the synagogue next to them
they greeted me
as I came into the synagogue
or I grew up with them.
This is my first time.
Joyce was very concerned
about what happened in Paris.
In France and also in Paris
because many things happened
against Jewish people.
I think she...
she would have liked us to move.
Did she ever say
where she'd like you to move?
In Pittsburgh, yes.
Come here, puppy.
Yeah. Come on,
want to sit with Mom?
This is my dog Ziva.
That's a Hebrew name.
- Ziva.
- What does it mean?
It means light, and illuminated.
She's been my therapy dog
I'll tell you for the...
that first week or so afterwards when
there was one funeral after the next.
It was... yeah.
That was a tough week.
I've said to a few people already
you know I can't wait
to get back home
it's gonna be a while
When you say
you can't wait to get back home
what do you mean by home?
Tree of Life, yeah
and they looked at me like
oh really? Yeah. You know.
It's 27 years now in there.
In 1993, my brother-in-law used to
work at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
And he called me and said
"Hey, there's a position here.
I want, you know,
I worked for a while
and you know I like it
so, I just stayed, you know.
The people, the hugs
and the kisses that I get, you know
once and a while
on the cheek of course
it's just in general working there
you know, some of the people
I couldn't wait to come in
for something...
you know, sometimes
I would stand at the door and wait
you know, for them to come in
and just say "Hi, how you doing?"
You know and I'm gonna miss all that.
I just was not involved
in Jewish life.
Really for my, most of my adult life.
So Saturday mornings
I would meet my friend at North Park
and we would run around the lake.
And we did that for many years
until I injured my hip
and I couldn't run
and I thought, well now
what am I gonna do?
So, well, maybe I'll just go to shul.
And so I joined my brother
and got involved
and it just carried on from there.
Our congregation is
a small congregation
and it tends towards the older side.
And we don't have
our own building anymore.
We couldn't maintain
our old building.
And so we sold it
and moved into the Tree of Life.
We don't refer to it
as the Tree of Life shooting.
We call it
the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
Because we want people to know
that there were
two other congregations
that were in that building
and all three congregations
lost people.
So the three congregations well,
of course, Tree of Life Or L'Simcha
it's their building.
There is Dor Hadash
which also was a tenant
and that's
a reconstructionist congregation
and the one that I belong to is
New Light Congregation.
And we had only been
in that building for 11 months.
We were just getting used
to that new home.
I would go to Friday night services,
and Sunday morning services.
But it happened that
it was my mother's yahrzeit
that Saturday morning.
The anniversary of her passing.
And I made it a point to go to shul.
Services started at a quarter to ten.
Nobody showed up at a quarter to ten.
I like to say Jewish standard time.
A quarter to ten, ten o'clock.
A quarter after.
But be there by 10:30.
And that's the way
things usually happen.
It was a rainy morning.
Got there and my dear friend
Jerry Rabinowitz was...
had arrived
just a couple minutes before I did.
And Marty Gaynor,
our friend, had arrived
just, I think, a couple minutes
after I got there.
then we heard gunshots.
And Jerry and I
looked at each other, and
well, Jerry is a doctor, I'm a nurse.
Our... our instincts are counter
to what everyone is trained
to do and should do
and I encourage them to do
and that is to run, hide and fight,
in that order.
But Jerry and I thought that
somehow we could be helpful.
And so we moved
in the direction of the gun fire.
We were trying to get David Rosenthal
to come with us
to hide and not to go back
and he wanted to go back
and he wanted to call his house.
And Rabbi Myers was
already on the phone to 9-1-1.
I... I didn't have my phone
because I had worn something
with pockets too shallow for a phone
and so my phone was on the pew.
it was a poor decision and
I'll never go to the synagogue again
without pockets big enough
to have my phone on me.
And I think
women's clothing should be made
with pockets big enough for phones
because apparently
it's a matter of life and death.
Jerry was killed.
And I was... was shot.
And I... knew that it was very likely
that I was going to be dead
in a few minutes.
I was on the stairs and I...
I didn't feel afraid at that point.
I... I had no sense of...
of being afraid of... about
the end of my life coming.
I thought about my life and I thought
gee, I've... I've had
a wonderful life.
My life has been so good.
I'm so grateful for it, you know.
The thing I did, and the thing that
seemed to be informed by my values
as a Jewish person
was to in that review
of my life to be thinking
of the people in my life
and things that I would
want to have done differently
and maybe that I had offended some of
them through my life in various ways
and... and to ask forgiveness
All of the sudden I see a camouflaged
pant leg on the stairs next to me.
And I grabbed the pant leg.
It was a paramedic.
And he said this one's alive.
I came in and I was a little bit late
and so I went down the steps
into our sanctuary space.
I could hear my brother
and Dan Stein in the kitchen.
The rabbi was
in the front on the right.
And Barry Werber was sitting
right in front of where I was sitting
and Mel was leading the service.
And I was getting my tallis bag out
I was, you know,
just getting prepared.
And I was holding
the tallis bag in my hand
and I heard the first gunshot,
although I didn't...
I didn't recognize it as a gunshot.
I didn't know what it was.
I thought somebody dropped a
metal table on a floor or something.
I didn't know what it was.
We all heard the sound and...
and then didn't think too much of it.
And then less than a minute later
there was another one.
And I said,
"What are they doing up there?"
And Barry got up out of the seat,
walked out, looked up the steps
he came back in and he said "There's
somebody laying on the steps."
And then he sat back down.
And it just wasn't occurring to us
what was happening.
And then I heard
you know, the rapid gunfire. And...
And then Rabbi said,
"We need to get out of here."
And he motioned us towards
a doorway that was in the back.
I had never been in that space
before, I didn't know what was there
it was pitch black in there,
there was no lights.
Couldn't see a... a thing.
And I saw a closet
with the door propped open
and I went into the closet.
Barry went into the closet.
And by that time, we knew
that they were shooting
and I had my cell phone out,
my dumb phone
and I called 9-1-1.
Now there were places
in that building
where you couldn't get
any cell phone recep... reception
especially in the basement.
But 9-1-1 went through.
there was a pause.
Carol was... was over here,
as I recall
kneeling behind... behind an area.
And I'm pressed up against a wall.
And Mel is in front of us.
And... there seemed to be a pause.
And Mel went and pushed the door
and we couldn't say anything
we were afraid of making any sound.
And Mel pushed the door open
and I heard three gunshots.
And he fell back into the room.
And then there was
a little bit of light from the...
from the sanctuary area.
the gunman walked in.
And we didn't say a word, you know,
we... we weren't saying anything.
We knew to be silent because
we were counting on the fact
that darkness was going
to be our friend that day
and that we were not seen.
And after he shot Mel
Barry saw him. I didn't see him.
I only saw a shadow
because I was behind a door.
I couldn't see too much.
I knew I could see the long gun.
I knew... I knew the type.
It was some sort of
an automatic weapon.
And I couldn't tell much by what
I was looking at other than the gun.
And... he stepped over Mel.
Couldn't see anything.
And I have 9-1-1 in my ear
yelling at me
trying to get me to say something
and I couldn't breathe.
And then he stepped back
out of the door and door closed.
And I guess it was about...
a half hour later, 15 minutes later
I'm not sure time, I'm talk...
By this time I'm talking
to the 9-1-1 operator
a shaft of light over my shoulder,
and footsteps behind me
and I didn't even know
there were steps.
I didn't remember
there were steps there.
As I said, I wasn't too familiar
with that room.
And this young SWAT officer
comes down the steps and
takes myself and Carol Black
out of the building.
Celina, our daughter
she said something happened
in Pittsburgh in Tree of Life
a shooting.
And... and then
we tried to call your mother.
She did not answer.
And then we... we told her
are you sure?
And maybe one hour later,
or maybe more
we... we saw the television, the CNN
and then they say there is
something happened in Pittsburgh.
And then the first thing Adam ask
when he under... when we understood
what happened exactly
he said, do you think
someone can come and kill us?
I said yes.
I was in the men's bathroom sanctuary
when I heard pow-pow-pow,
pow-pow-pow. And
I started making my way
through the sanctuary.
Come through the lobby
Through the... there's like a hallway
outside the chapel
and I see a magazine on the floor
and I smell a lot of gunpowder,
and I looked in the chapel real quick
and then all I seen was
the lights on, that was it.
I didn't see nobody,
I didn't hear nothing.
Well, then I turned and ran out
of the building, back, of course
away from the gunfire.
As soon as I got to the exit door
in the sanctuary, I kicked it open.
And got down on my knees
and said I'm just a custodian
I'm trying
to get out of the building.
They just pointed a gun
at me and Steve Weiss.
He just said really loud
"That's Augie, that's a custodian."
And he pointed at me and
then when I got up on the sidewalk,
on Shady Avenue
a Pittsburgh police officer walked up
and he had blood
coming down his head.
And he was saying a word
I can't say multiple times.
I guess he had some kind of
confrontation with Bowers
at the front door. I'm not sure.
All of the first responders
were just amazing. I...
I don't have the words
to describe
just how wonderful they were
and the depth of my gratitude.
But, you know,
all of the police officers
our Pittsburgh police, police came
from all over the region, the EMTs
they risked their lives
without hesitation.
As you know, four of our officers
were wounded very badly, and...
you know, of course they...
if you talk to any of them they'll
say "Oh I was just doing my job."
They refuse to take, act like
they did anything extraordinary.
But, boy, as soon as they got
the notice, they were there, and
they were in the building.
And the EMTs went in when it was
still a very dangerous situation
because they wanted to see
if they could save people
and thank God they did.
They saved Dan Leger.
And if they had not,
he might not be here.
I remember very little
of the ambulance ride.
I remember arriving at the hospital
and then I don't remember
anything until...
I was looking up through
what appeared to be, like, gauze
or cotton, or clouds, or something.
And seeing shadowy figures
around me.
And I...
and I remember thinking to myself
this is the Chevra kadisha,
this is the burial society.
They have come
to prepare me to be buried.
And I felt so comforted.
I felt so completely comforted
by that notion.
That my friends were there
taking care of me.
And then again
there's a long period of time
where I don't remember
much of anything.
I remember when
the breathing tube was removed.
And I remember
looking and realizing that
my family was around me
and saying, that I loved you.
And the third thing I said was
God forgive him.
Alleged synagogue shooter
Robert Bowers is not believed
to have a prior criminal history.
The social media posts attributed
to him contain anti-semitic views
and other hate speech.
As awful as it sounds
and I'm not trying to say that the...
I'm not trying to... to give
the shooter a free pass here.
But... But I know that he was made
in the image of God just like I am.
He's a human being.
Anti-semitism was a fuel
it fueled other hate speech
that the suspect was posting.
So it wasn't just anti-semitism
it was also hate about immigrants
hate about other individuals.
But at the core
was this deep anti-semitism
that you see on
his social media footprint.
And one, some...
several of the messages
that he was posting was against
a Jewish refugee resettlement agency.
And that was his point is that...
one of the points
he was making was that
this agency is bringing people in.
And he said, among many other things
that, "my people
are being slaughtered."
The days when synagogues
just leave their doors open
and hope that, you know, no one
comes through the door with a gun
I think those days are gone.
Just before the shooting
we had the woman who was chair
of the social action committee
had organized
what was called, a HIAS Shabbat.
And there were... it was happening
all over the country
there was a particular Shabbat
that was to be focused on immigrants.
And apparently
the HIAS website listed
congregations that were participants
and Congregation Dor Hadash
was listed as a participant.
That's how he knew that we had
something to do with immigrants.
This person who committed this act
was very much against of immigration.
Immigration to him meant
the existential threat
to the white people.
At this very moment, large,
well organized caravans of migrants
are marching towards
our southern border.
Some people call it an invasion.
It's like an invasion.
There's a great fear
among, you know, white people
that whiteness is dying
in this country
and that the culture of... of white
America is... has been diminished
by Latin Americans,
by blacks, by Jews.
And it's simply not true.
I, Barack Hussein Obama,
do solemnly swear.
Part of that fear began with
the election of Barack Obama.
You know, as much as
we would like to celebrate
the election
of the first black president
I think that
a lot of these people retreated
and they held
a great deal of resentment.
They didn't really know
what to think.
Hey, I'm the guy on record saying
he is the black Muslim antichrist!
I think the election of
Donald Trump was
a kind of triumph for them
and it emboldened them
You know, the Second Amendment
speaks of forming militias.
I think that's what
they're doing now in a quiet way.
You know, they're doing it
over the Internet
and they are using this language
which if you compare the language
that they're using of
you know, invasion and replacement.
The Democratic party is trying
to replace the current electorate.
It's appearing
in all of their manifestos.
What they really want is to replace
white people in white countries.
Before we go on,
I want to clarify "they."
- Evil elite Jews.
- A Jewish elite.
The Jewish mafia.
JEW dominated globalism.
They're taking it
to the streets with their
you know, semi-automatic rifles
Which they are allowed to have.
You know they... they're
in a struggle for their lives.
They believe what they hear.
And it scares them a great deal that
their country is being taken over.
And some of the white supremacist
actions that are happening
in... outside of America
are happening in Europe.
There was something that happened
in Norway a few years ago.
This attack in New Zealand
was really...
really a fear about Australia
and.. what's happening
in that part of the world.
And these terrorists are trying
to make a statement
about the position of,
you know, whiteness in this world.
Classmates threw pennies
because Jews have
always been accused of being cheap
so they would expect
that I would go pick up the pennies.
The worst was I came home one day.
There were swastikas in my driveway
with "Jeffrey is a dirty Jew."
So that was my introduction
to learning about the Holocaust.
We've seen
within the previous century
the horrors of what anti-semitism
can wreak upon people
that we would think are civilized
that could behave that way.
This was Madison Square Garden
in New York City.
They wore Hitler's uniforms
but they wrapped themselves
in the American flag.
Hail Hitler!
Hail Hitler!
Who do we don't like?
Who else?
The danger of anti-semitism is
it doesn't stop with anti-semitism.
It... it denotes
a moral decay in humanity
when you're gonna treat people
as an other
and think of them as less than human.
Etz Chaim Hee: Etz chayim hi
Lamachazikim ba
Vetomecheha me'ushar
Darchei no-am
Vechol netivote cha shalom
Hashiveinu Adon-ai
Eilecha v'nashuva
Chadesh chadesh yameinu
Chadesh yameinu
K'kedem, Amen
There's a lot of reliance
on religion in our country.
And I think everybody seemed touched
whether Jewish or Catholic or Muslim
or... or any other religion
that this could happen to them.
It's not some random shooting
it was a crime against people who...
they were only shot
because of what they believed in.
What the Jewish community today
despite facing a tragedy
what they did for the world
was so important.
What the Pittsburgh community did
was so important.
Because, because of that evil, every
single person is touched by that.
Hundreds of thousands people
around the world
all responded an act of goodness.
My family is largely always from
like everybody that I've known
at least generationally is
from Madras, Chennai, in India.
So southern India and Tele Nadu
the region.
So they came here,
like, in the late '80s, 1990.
You know, like, my mom came here
a little bit before my father.
Then my brother was born in 91.
And then I was born in 92.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Capital of the Keystone State, yeah.
I think a lot of people
were surprised to see
the Muslim community
of all communities step up
and help the Jewish community.
And I think
it's because of misconceptions
about both of our communities
that people were so surprised.
But our religions are very similar.
Our traditions are similar.
Our values are similar.
Our burial practices
are very similar.
They're gonna bury
in a couple of days.
I knew that Ralph Schugar
Funeral Home is where people go.
And so I called them and said
hey I'm from
the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.
We raised enough money
to cover every single funeral
no matter what.
Just don't send anybody a bill.
Quite frankly
we did not have that money.
You know, like, we... I was
just confident in our community.
So then immediately
we started to do a fundraiser.
Just that online fundraiser
was $250,000.
That was what was meant
to ensure that
nobody would have to worry about
burial costs during a time like this.
Or medical costs at a time like this.
We just wanted people
to focus on mourning.
Let the families grieve!
This is our neighborhood!
You are not welcome here!
I remember getting a call
from a Dor Hadash congregant
and she was beside herself. She said
they're blocking off Tree of Life.
The police are there,
they're blocking it off.
I think Trump is coming.
And we had no idea that he was coming
to the actual Tree of Life building.
I live two blocks away from here.
Both my daughters are Jewish.
They were threatened
to be killed several days ago.
And Trump is using
this opportunity for grie... of grief
to promote the hate that generated
this situation in the first place.
I don't care if they arrest me.
I care if my kids live in a world
where they're gonna
be killed for being Jewish.
I care if kids live in a world
that they're gonna be killed
for being black
I care if kids are gonna be killed
if we're living in a world
that they're immigrants.
Trump is not respecting.
I care. I care.
Because it's the future
of my daughters.
I'm not a very political person.
I think that as the President
of The United States
it certainly was within his right
to come and visit and try to show
that he's here supporting us.
I think that there are a lot of
people who don't like Trump.
I had no problem
with him coming here.
If the president, whoever it is
wants to come
the president should be welcomed.
But President Trump gets support
from white nationalists.
The protestors were right
to express their opinions
and President Trump should have paid
attention to what they were saying.
This was distributed
throughout our community.
This is an actual bag
with bird seed, and a flyer
from the Klu-Klux-Klan.
It's a delivery system.
You can distribute them from the car.
After the Tree of Life massacre
probably about
thirty or forty of these
were thrown about
in the Squirrel Hill area
referring to Jews as Satan.
These groups are emboldened,
they're empowered
and they're vocal
and they feel they can be now.
I'm... I'm gonna stop you there.
I'm a really apolitical guy.
- Okay. I don't know...
- We both know the answer.
Okay, we all know what the answer is,
and I'm not gonna answer it
okay, I'm not gonna answer
that question.
The Squirrel Hill community
filled the temple Sinai synagogue
hugging each other tightly
with tears in their eyes
promising to stand strong
against gun violence.
We will never forget those we lost
as we work to keep others safe
and spare other families
such terrible losses.
Following the attack
on the Tree of Life synagogue
the community formed "Squirrel Hill
Stands Against Gun Violence,"
working with community leaders
and survivors to find solutions.
We have to be here
to be able to support
and encourage our local leaders
as they pass legislation
that our federal and state government
is too broken and too inept
to take care of for us.
If we didn't change
the gun regulation and gun laws
after Sandy Hook
I don't know that we ever will.
I hope and pray there is a day
when we do do that.
I'm a Marine, I'm an FBI agent
I've carried a gun
my entire professional career.
I think too many people have guns
that should not have guns
and that are not qualified
and fit and sound
to carry that weapon.
It's an inalienable right!
I traveled here from Beaver County
for one reason.
If we let this shit happen here,
before you know it
it'll be in everybody's back yard
across our nation!
They were talking
about tearing the building down.
And it was boarded up for a while.
We got it pretty cheap,
but it was in rough shape.
I've honestly have not had one person
and I've had hundreds of people
you know, Jewish religion come in
and I have not had one person
come in and have a problem with it.
Anyone I've talked to they were happy
that we saved the building.
Did you hear about
the Tree of Life shooting?
It's a shame. It truly is a shame.
I have no...
you know, I don't think
I have a racist bone in my body
to be honest with ya, in any way.
It's just the way I tick,
I don't know
I can't understand
people that have that hate
I just, I can't... you know.
I'm at a point now, I'm 62
that, you know I...
I'd have trouble hunting I think.
I haven't hunted for a few years.
Just, ya know, killing an animal now.
Believe me, I would quit selling guns
if I thought
it would make a difference.
And I mean, it's just
what really upsets me is
as soon as there's a shooting,
okay, you have the agenda people up.
And they, you know,
they want to ban assault rifles.
And banning assault rifles
isn't gonna do anything.
Better background checks?
I'm all for that.
But even that is a band-aid.
Common sense just tells you
that it's... you know
these people aren't gonna give up
especially the criminals,
they're not gonna give up their guns.
If anything, I would think,
you know, to arm more people.
Thank you all for coming because
this is really important
and we as a congregation, or anywhere
can spend an infinite amount of money
on security and have
the best security in the world.
But your power is in your knowledge
and your ability
to respond in a situation.
Which is what
Brad is here to show us.
Good evening, everybody.
We're gonna talk about some things
today that are hard to hear.
We're gonna talk about death.
We're gonna talk about violence.
We're here talking about it
in a synagogue.
In our house of worship.
Because we've had and suffered
the worst massacre
in our nation's history
to the Jewish population, right?
Since the year 2000
active shooters, that active threat
has increased every single year.
I am gonna talk about
a commitment to action.
We have to learn how to survive
for three to five minutes.
That three to five minutes
is that timeframe
when we call police
till first responders typically come.
Steve is a member of Tree of Life.
Steve was there
that morning on October 27th.
And thank God Steve is standing
with us here today.
With that, Steve.
Thank you.
Good evening.
I'd like to just tell you
a little bit about what happened
on Saturday morning October 27th.
As the Rabbi finished the Kaddish
I started walking into the doorway
to go out into the lobby.
And there were
a series of four or five shots
that occurred in succession.
And while I'm standing there
I can watch the brass bounce
across the floor in front of me.
And I remembered training that I had
in September of 2017 with Brad
where he came into
our religious school.
- I ran up the side...
- I'm doing pretty well
I mean, I've had a chance
to talk with my students in school.
With the social worker in school.
With a lot of different people, and
that's really helped me work
through a lot of this in my mind.
I ran up the side of the chapel
across the bimah
and out a door
that's on that side of the bimah.
As I was going out of the door
shots were starting to happen
in the chapel itself.
I look back on it and to me
God has a reason why I'm still here.
I went down a back stairway.
I wanted to alert the New Light
congregation that was down stairs
getting ready
to start their services.
And I've kind of taken on a mission
to really try
to promote ALICE training
kind of as my personal take out
of this whole thing.
Because I really credit
that training with saving my life.
I came back up the steps,
went out the main sanctuary
and out a side door
onto Shady Avenue.
And, about 30 seconds later,
the first patrol car pulled up.
And so it's up to each one of us
to learn this
because it can save your life.
It's devastating.
You just start thinking
about each one of them
and how you knew each one
and how long you've knew each one.
Rose Mallinger,
I taught her grandchildren
their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.
Sylvan and Bernice Simon,
Bernice knew my mom.
You know,
just, the little things like that
but, you can't help, you know,
you have to think about them.
All of us have such different
memories and associations with them
but I think that their memories
really are what we would call
a blessing for all of us
and that part of them
continues to live on within us.
I was wondering
if you've formed any relationship
from people in other cities
who have also, you know,
gone through mass shootings
or other similar events?
Parkland has been here
and the church in Charleston,
they were here.
And those were really helpful times
that we spent because
they were, especially Charleston,
it's been five years?
So, they had some time to... to heal,
and their knowledge is very helpful.
There's a few people
from Parkland that I...
It's crazy when there's a shooting
we text each other.
Because you only can relate,
you can relate to each other.
You just know that, you know
what each other is feeling.
Michele this question is for you.
We read a lot about your brothers
that many of us never knew.
If you had the chance
to write about your brothers
how would you put it into your words?
I don't know two people
who were happier
living the life that they had.
They would carry the Torah
and it meant a lot to them, they...
It is, it's an honor
to do something like that
but for them it was a true honor
and they were so proud of themselves
when they were able to do it.
And then
the Rabbi had reached out to me
and asked me if I would carry
a Torah on Yom Kippur which...
was an absolute yes
because it was to honor Cecil.
But I have to say that day
I thought I was ready
and I wasn't ready
and it was probably
one of the hardest things
because I heard stories
from people where
kids from the congregation who had
gone with their parents were like
that was Cecil's,
that was Cecil's job.
So it was just really hard. I just
I reached out to Cecil in my mind
and just said,
please get me through this.
They learned this
through all the years
going to synagogue with Michelle
and my grandmother, and my parents
how to daven and how to
what the order of the service was. So
they knew it by heart
'cause they were there every weekend.
So it was just an integral part
of their life.
They would come home on the Sabbath
or holidays and say
I opened the ark
or I carried the Torah.
And I was real proud
of doing that.
And you could notice that
in the smiles
as he walked around with the Torah
with a smile on his face.
And they came home and said,
mom and dad, are you proud of me?
And we were very proud
and we told them.
We did not learn about
their learning disability.
They developed physically good.
Until it was time for education,
like kindergarten and first grade.
They had no more learning ability of
that of maybe a five, six year old.
But I raised them
like normal children.
They were...
I think they were given to us
because God felt we could do it.
And I hope we did.
And I think that
there was a time that God felt
that it was time for him
to take the boys back.
Knowing if we had passed
before the boys
how would they have handled it?
And we tried to explain to the boys:
if something happens to us,
what happens?
And Cecil's remark was that
"Father, I don't want you to die."
Well, that sort of cracked me up
and I dropped the subject.
I was protective of them. I didn't
want them to get hurt by people
because I think I saw
how society could treat people.
And I think what we found out
after this... this horrific tragedy
is they actually did a pretty good
job of taking care of themselves.
So the protection that
we might have tried to give them...
They were okay.
They knew more people
than my sister and I combined.
People came out of the woodwork that
knew them, shop owners, waitresses
- bus drivers,
- Bus drivers.
the firemen and policemen
and they knew them name.
The people that love David and Cecil.
I guess we probably took it for
granted and it means so much to us.
I have people all the time
that come up and share stories
and I will not get tired of them.
Okay. Then I'll take it out.
And then there's some water
on the bottom
- so just keep it upright.
- Perfect. Awesome
- Okay, thanks!
- thank you.
Yeah, sorry about...
Cecil was here pretty much every day.
He would open up the front door and
say, good afternoon beautiful ladies!
He would always stick his head
against the window first though.
You knew he was coming in because
he was coming in looking in the glass
and I would go, mom,
Cecil's coming here!
- Yeah.
- And then he'd open the door.
And then he would say,
what are you doing? Trouble?
He would... He would do that.
So does Cecil have an account here?
- Yeah. Yeah, he did.
- That never got filled?
It's okay, it doesn't matter.
We used to call him the owner.
We used to say, "Cecil the owner."
You know, David too would come
in here, not near as much as Cecil
because he was always
at the fire station
- 'cause that's what he loved.
- Yeah.
It's nice to know that
I was obviously so protective
of Cecil and David
because they had special needs.
- Yeah.
- But
they had a whole other family
out there that took care of them
- that none of us realized.
- Yeah.
I loved him. It's really weird
- that he's not here.
- Sorry.
- Yeah.
- I try not to get...
No, you should cry, it's good to cry.
- Yeah.
- I just feel so much better
to finally, like...
get this off my chest,
yeah, a little bit too. Yeah.
This actually is
what gets us through.
- I mean my... I was just
- Yeah.
with my parents, and
it's the beautiful memories
that... that keep us going.
- Definitely.
- That's why I think that
what do they say in Judaism?
May his memory be a blessing,
because that's what it is.
These gardens were created
for my mother in her memory.
And my sister in law initiated it.
A lot of people sent rose bushes.
Neighbors and family.
And, the yellow ones are... yellow,
light colored ones are peace roses.
They were sent by cousins.
Aren't the yellow ones
peace roses? Yeah.
This one is mine.
This one I made. I'm not an artist
but it's the words.
Everybody loved her and if...
if love alone could have spared her,
she would have lived forever.
Yis'ga'dal v'yis'kadash sh'may ra'bbo
b'olmo dee'vro chir'usay
v'yamlich malchu'say
uv'yomay'chon uv'chayay...
The Chabad of Pittsburgh
did something
in the days following the tragedy
which was to ask people
within the Congregation and beyond
to do 100 mitzvahs,
or good deeds for every victim.
Say hi. Ozzy says he would have given
his dvar Torah had he known.
He would've given
11 minute dvar Torah.
When you think about what can come
of this... this sort of situation
it's, you... you need to think
about the values for which
the victims stood.
The lives that they lived, so their
lives were about the positive part
and how we can change
other people's lives
in a positive manner
because that in particular is
what our mother would have wanted
as a legacy.
And what we're going to do
in a positive light about that.
Each one of you gets... gets one.
You can have yours
okay? And any one of the mitzvahs
let's say you commit
to giving refugee help
which is supposed to be
the irony in all this
because that's why,
that was sort of the...
- We did refugee!
- Well, there you go.
And what's this for, you know,
why we're doing this, Anthony?
For who? For whose memory?
Everyone that died.
Right, exactly,
so how many people died that day?
- Eleven.
- There you go.
And one of them was Anthony's mom,
so we're doing it for her, okay?
We're doing it in memory of her.
Since the shooting,
I feel a lot more connected
to Judaism.
Certainly to my shul family.
And I've gotten very involved in
I think if my brother is watching
at all I think he'd be happy
to see that that's what I'm doing.
The shooter. I don't even like to...
I don't speak his name,
I never speak his name.
I don't like to humanize him.
He took the lives of people.
And for what? What did it accomplish?
It accomplished nothing.
And whatever chance he had
at a life, he just threw it away.
Because he will never
see the light of day again.
If they could just keep him
in solitary confinement
and he can spend
the rest of his miserable life
thinking about what he did,
and why he is where he is.
That to me is justice
because I actually think
executing him is too easy.
And I don't want him to have it easy.
I always thought I was against
the death penalty.
What sum of money
can give financial reparation.
There isn't.
In fact, we would give all the money
in the world to have another day.
So, not easy to do that.
Therefore, I am part of
along with my brother
and a couple others in the group
ardent supporters of the death
penalty in this particular case.
Will that change anything?
Absolutely not. Except
to potentially send a message
to those who believe
that perpetrating crimes
of this sort of... of
mass murder is...
a way of achieving something
that it doesn't achieve.
I hope that one day I will have
the opportunity to speak with him.
I would like to ask him
why he did this.
I would like to have the opportunity
to have a glimmer of influence.
That if he is inclined
to indoctrinate other inmates
to leave the prison
and go out and do similar things
that he should not do so.
I don't believe in the death penalty.
I think that we don't have any right
to take another person's life.
I don't even view the shooter
as a person
as a... as a person at all
let alone one worthy to forgive.
I look forward to
maybe getting to that point
because one of the things
that I've learned from all of this is
how many different religions
there are in the world
that teach all the same thing.
Love and peace.
You have to reach out
to your fellow man
you have to be gracious,
you have to be generous
you have to share,
you have to... cause peace to happen.
It's an active thing
that we have to do.
The Torah, the five books of Moses
is referred to as the Tree of Life
because these are the laws
that we've been given
this is the... the code
of how to live.
If you take the gift that
we were given of this knowledge
of how to treat the world,
treat the others
treat all of life.
You tend the earth,
you share your crops
you... all of these rules, you know
if your... if your neighbor's bull
falls into your pit, or whatever
you owe your neighbor
all these rules
have, they... they set forth
a pattern of life.
WHYY's Peter Crimmon's reports that
the Philadelphia Orchestra
has had a composer in residence
for the last two years,
writing a new piece.
It starts with a shofar.
This is Audrey Glickman,
the shofar player.
That's what a shofar does,
we call people to action.
She's a member
of the Tree of Life synagogue
that was the site
of a mass shooting last October.
And she was asked
to come to Philadelphia
and play the shofar
with the orchestra.
The piece is called Healing Tones.
A new work by Hannibal Lokumbem.
As a human being, I found it
unfortunate to have to write it.
This once was a service station.
This was the office
and when I was five years old
I came inside the office here
and asked
if I could use the bathroom
and the response was:
"Niggers can't use this bathroom"
That stayed in my heart
and I said one day
I'm gonna buy this place.
And the first thing I'm gonna do
is to tear out the bathroom
I was denied usage of.
And this is the door to the men's
bathroom which was right here.
And so I wrote Healing Tones here,
I write all my music on this piano.
I pretty much completed
the composition
when I heard of
the horrible event
in Pittsburgh
at the Tree of Life synagogue.
And I said to the staff,
we must make a commentary on this
if we could in fact get
one of the shofars, the instrument.
So they called,
and I was in the office
and... and all of a sudden
Jeremy broke in, he said,
"Hannibal, guess what?"
"The shofar player is gonna come!
Has agreed to come and play!"
I want to give you a hug.
- Okay, okay.
- Thank you.
Thank you! Thank you!
That was really great.
It was tremendous.
We could all feel it.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And there was a guy
about three feet away
sitting on the bench
and he said you were
one of them. And I said yes.
- It was nice meeting you.
- Yes, okay.
And you made it
much more memorable, too.
Well, thank you, thank you.
I'm glad you liked it.
It is.
Of course I'm changed by this.
Who wouldn't be?
The vision of the man
with the gun facing me
is not as prominent
as it was the first week or two
but every once in a while
he shows up.
I'll read you something.
This is from one of my favorite guys.
"To love God truly
one must first love
all humanity.
If anyone tells you that
they love God and do not love others
you will know that they are lying.
What you must do is
love your neighbor as yourself
there is no one who knows
your many faults better than you do
but you love yourself anyway.
So must you love your neighbors
no matter how many faults
you see in them."