Poway Synagogue Shooting
On the last day of Passover, a 19 year-old filled with hate entered the Chabad of Poway synagogue, north of San Diego, and opened fire. The Poway attack came six months to the day after the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough blamed Donald Trump for the shooting. Referring to the president's remarks at the NRA last week, Scarborough said, "The blood that is spilled is on your hands. You are just inciting violence."
Rep. Eric Swalwell also lashed out at Trump, and Baltimore Sun columnist David Zurawik laid the blame for Saturday's attack at Trump's feet, saying, "Look, we've always been a violent society. . . but this era we're in with Donald Trump, it's like the Gates of Hell have been opened."
I am sick and tired of left-wing pundits trying to blame the most pro-Israel president, who has repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism and who has Jewish members in his immediate family, for these disgusting attacks.
There is a stronger case to be made for blaming growing anti-Semitism on the left, and the condemnations of Zionism that routinely occur on our college campuses.
Incredibly, the New York Times ran a despicable anti-Semitic cartoon just days ago that was reminiscent of something from 1930s Germany. Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League denounced the cartoon as "anti-Semitic propaganda of the most vile sort."
The Poway synagogue shooter was an obvious racist and anti-Semite. He posted a 4,000-word manifesto in which he also denounced conservatives and Donald Trump precisely because Trump is so pro-Israel.
He claimed to be an admirer of the New Zealand mosque gunman, Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ, which in my view is a marker of his insanity. No Christian could admire what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand. Hitler is a good stand-in for the anti-Christ, and Jesus was a Jew!
Courage Amid The Chaos
I was struck by the heroic stories that came out of this attempted mass murder. Sadly, Lori Gilbert-Kaye was killed when she jumped in front of the gunman to save the life of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein.
Roneet Lev, a friend of Gilbert-Kaye's, said, "She died a sacred death. She died on the Sabbath. She died on Passover. She died in the synagogue. She died saving the rabbi's life."
Rabbi Goldstein had a finger shot off. Yet, after the gunman fled the synagogue, Rabbi Goldstein addressed the congregation. With his hand wrapped in a prayer shawl, Rabbi Goldstein stood in a chair and declared:
"We are a Jewish nation that will stand tall. We will not let anyone or anything take us down. Terrorism like this will not take us down."
Oscar Stewart, a 51 year-old veteran, charged the shooter and chased him to his car, where he proceeded to pound on the car door. Stewart served four years in the Navy in the early 1990s and then joined the Army after 9/11.
Like the trained soldier he is, Stewart ran to the battle. "I was ready to do whatever I had to do to stop him," Stewart said. His courage undoubtedly saved others in the process.
Off-duty Border Patrol Agent Jonathan Morales ran with Stewart and fired several shots at the shooter's car. According to Rabbi Goldstein, Morales had recently discovered his Jewish roots and drove three hours to attend services at the Chabad synagogue. Rabbi Goldstein urged him to come to the synagogue armed. "We never know when we will need it," he said.
Others injured in the attack were Noya Dahan, just eight years old, and her uncle Almog Peretz. Noya and Almog are from Sderot, Israel. Their family moved to San Diego to escape the rocket barrages from Gaza. When the shooting began, Peretz immediately grabbed several children and ran from the synagogue, despite being shot in the leg.
Unfortunately, no human society can rid itself of evil. But a society that produces so many courageous, selfless people in one place is strong and it will endure.
The President's Response
Speaking at a rally in Wisconsin Saturday evening, President Trump condemned the shooting and pledged all the help and resources the federal government had to offer to local law enforcement. He called the mayor of Poway and the governor of California.
What the president did not say during his Wisconsin remarks is that he also called Rabbi Goldstein. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Rabbi Goldstein said:
"I received a personal phone call from our president, Donald Trump. I was amazed to answer the phone and [hear] the secretary of the White House was calling. . .
"[Trump] shared with me condolences on behalf of the United States of America. We spoke about the moment of silence. And he spoke about his love of peace and Judaism and Israel. He was just so comforting, I'm really grateful to our president for taking the time and making that effort to share with us his comfort and consolation."
Fighting Religious Persecution
Last year, as you may recall, I was appointed by President Trump to serve on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Today, I was on Capitol Hill with my fellow commissioners briefing members of Congress and the media on our annual report, which documents the worst state violators of religious liberty.
The Commission identified 16 nations as "countries of particular concern" for their severe and systematic violations of religious freedom: Burma, Central African Republic, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
China's communist government has essentially declared war on all religions. The most egregious example is the persecution of the Uighurs. It is estimated that one million Muslim Uighurs are being detained in Chinese internment camps. Buddhists and members of the Falun Gong also face government oppression.
Christians are also persecuted in communist China, which had permitted a "safe space" of sorts for registered state-approved churches. While Christians in unapproved churches are routinely hounded, Beijing recently launched a crackdown on its registered churches, forcing them to install facial recognition technology.
This demand comes at a time when the communist government has instituted a "social credit scoring system" that assesses people's reputation and punishes those who speak out against the regime.
As Americans, we're blessed to live in a country whose founders enshrined religious freedom in the Constitution. We're also blessed to live in a country that cherishes religious freedom so much that we've committed to doing all we can to protect it around the world.
I am proud to serve on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, and proud of the Trump/Pence Administration's efforts to defend this fundamental human right.