The news of the massacre of the Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh brought me to tears. It was also sobering about the larger context of prejudice in this nation. I was, however, greatly heartened by the insightful and prophetic voice of the Jewish leaders of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, … to the president of the United States. Invoking their own Torah, they challenged him on his own culpability in creating a climate for such hate-crimes. It ought to be persuasive to all those followers of Jesus Christ who are being formed into his image. I quote their communication herewith:

“President Trump: Yesterday, a gunman slaughtered 11 Americans during Shabbat morning services. We mourn with the victims’ families and pray for the wounded. Here in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, we express gratitude for the first responders and for the outpouring of support from our neighbors near and far. We are committed to healing as a community while we recommit ourselves to repairing our nation.

“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement. You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.

“Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted.  You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering all minorities.

“The murderer’s last public statement invoked the compassionate work of the Jewish refugee service HIAS at the end of a week in which you spread lies and sowed fear about migrant families in Central America. He killed Jews in order to undermine the efforts of all those who find shared humanity with immigrants and refugees.

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you cease your assault on immigrants and refugees.

“The Torah teaches that every human being is made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.

“This means all of us.

“In our neighbors, Americans, and people worldwide who have reached out to give our community strength, there we find the image of God.  While we cannot speak for all “Pittsburghers, or even all Jewish Pittsburghers, we know we speak for a diverse and unified group when we say:

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.”


Amen! The voice of bold wisdom out of the inescapable principles of Holy Scripture sent to the “principalities and powers” of this nation. God bless those leaders in these tear-filled days.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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  1. Craig Wertz says:

    The most infuriating statement of the week for me was the suggestion that the synagogue should have had armed guards to prevent this from occurring. One of the most fundamental tenants of our country is that we should all be able to worship in peace without fear. If indeed the government of THIS country truly believes armed guards are now needed at the doors of our places of worship to prevent this type of violence then it is the governments duty to provide that protection! Our President’s lack of understanding of the many of the fundamental tenants of our countries existence serves to remind me what they are. Love harder, forgive more, judge less, give generously, open my mind. Vote. Out of love, not out of fear.

  2. Jermaine says:

    No guns period should be allowed in any place of worship. I found this letter from the synagogue to be very powerful, truthful, direct and inspiring. I would like to thank my brothers and sisters of another faith for their inclusion of people of color. The divisiveness of this “Make America Great Again” campaign is atrocious and malignant. It is upmost a movement of the devil. I renounce this nationalism, the devil and self proclaimed nationalist Trump. This is not democracy, but tyranny. This is obviously the most incompetent and destructive president of American history. His illegal presidency and crimes will catch up with him in the end.

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