The Pittsburgh synagogue where 11 worshippers were gunned down in a 2018 mass shooting is rejecting President Biden’s claim he visited after the tragedy.
At a Thursday virtual event commemorating the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Biden decried anti-Semitism and expressed sadness something like the Tree of Life synagogue shooting could happen in the US.
‘I remember spending time at the – you know, going to the – you know, the Tree of Life Synagogue, speaking with the – just – it just is amazing these things are happening – happening in America,’ he said.
But Tree of Life executive director Barb Feige said that never happened, according to the New York Post.
Feige, who assumed her role in July 2019, told the outlet that ‘no,’ the president didn’t come before nor after stepping foot in the White House.
In October 2018 a man with an AR-15 carried out the attack during Saturday morning Shabbat services, killing 11 and wounding 6 people including Holocaust survivors. It was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in US history.
Biden addressed rabbis at a virtual event marking the holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah
Star of David memorials line the outside of Tree of Life synagogue after a gunman with anti-Semitic beliefs killed 11 people in the deadliest attack on the American Jewish community in US history
The 46-year-old gunman actively espoused white supremacist and anti-Semitic beliefs on social media.
Last year Biden released a statement on the second anniversary of the attack, ‘May the memories of those we lost be a blessing — and may we never stop fighting the scourges of anti-Semitism and gun violence.’
Former President Trump and first lady Melania payed respects at the Pittsburgh synagogue three days after the shooting. They were accompanied by his daughter Ivanka, Jared Kushner and Steve Mnuchin – all of whom are Jewish.
Biden’s comments on Tree of Life come against the backdrop of historic spikes in attacks against Jews in the US.
Biden told the rabbis on Thursday that anti-Semitic attacks are ‘a strike against the soul of our nation and the values which we say we stand for.’
‘No matter its source or stated rationale, we have to and will condemn this prejudice at every turn, alongside other forms of hate,’ he said.
Former President Trump and first lady Melania visited the site three days after the shooting
Biden commemorated the two year anniversary of the shooting in a statement last year
The second time Biden’s memory failed him during the speech was a few minutes later, when he invoked his personal experiences with the Jewish faith in his daughter’s wedding but couldn’t exactly pinpoint the details.
As he was wrapping up remarks Biden called for renewed collaboration across faiths in the Jewish New Year.
‘My daughter married a Jewish young man. And – you know, dream of every – every Catholic father that she marry a Jewish doctor,’ the president joked.
‘It was co-officiated. Now, some of you aren’t going to like this, but it was co-officiated by a Catholic priest as well as a Jewish rabbi,’ he said of the wedding between Ashley Biden and Howard Krein in 2012.
Biden went on to describe his favorite Catholic hymn which he requested at the wedding – but was at a loss over the name.
‘There’s a psalm based – there’s a hymn – my favorite hymn in the Catholic Church based on a psalm, and it’s – it’s a psalm that talks about life. And – and so, I – I asked if that psalm – that hymn in the Catholic Church,’ he said before listing off some lyrics.
He seemed to reference a second song but again failed to recall the name.
Pictured: Then-Vice President Joe Biden (2nd L) walks with his daughter Ashley Biden (L), his wife Jill Biden (2nd R) and son-in-law Howard Krien (R) in Singapore, 2013 (file photo)
Ashley Blazer Biden, left, married Dr. Howard Krein, right, in Wilmington, Delaware on Saturday, June 2, 2012. Biden has said the wedding was co-officiated
‘And they played – and I’m – my mind is going blank now.
‘What’s the song that is played where everybody is on the chair? Everybody, you know – what – what – I can’t remember it. Anyway. And that’s the song that was played.
‘So, you know, I don’t know what the hell is going on here.’
Biden then finally remembered the first song – ‘I just had one little favor — you know, just that they play ‘On the Wi – On Eagle’s Wings.’
The president reined himself in and told the rabbis, ‘I’m taking too much for your time.’
‘really, honest to God, believe that we have a possibility – a possibility to make things so much better, and we just have to believe it,’ he said.
Biden ended his address by telling his audience: ‘I think the Jewish community is sort of the backbone of staying with what’s right. And so, I’m looking forward to continue to work with you. And again, happy holidays.’