Synagogue Shooting:
Chief Rabbi rebuts claims he refused to recognize synagogue

Israeli Chief Rabbi responds to media attack over claims that he refused to recognize target of Pittsburgh shooting as a synagogue.

Arutz Sheva Staff , | updated: 11:22 AM

Rabbi David Lau
Rabbi David Lau
Shlomi Cohen,Flash 90

Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau published a rebuttal on Facebook in the wake of criticism against him for an interview in which he reportedly refused to acknowledge that the location of the Pittsburgh massacre was a "synagogue."

Rabbi Lau was asked by Makor Rishon to address Israeli haredi news sites' coverage of the shooting, which the interviewer claimed refuses to call "Tree of Life" a "Conservative synagogue," but rather "a Jewish center, in the best case."

“How is that relevant?" Rabbi Lau asked. Don’t bring that up in [connection to] this topic. We are talking about Jews murdered because they are Jews. Why is this even a question?! I don’t hear or understand what kind of a discussion can be in regard to this question. They were murdered because they were Jews. Why does it matter in what synagogue or what liturgy they were praying?!”

He went on, “I repeat: We are talking about Jews and we cannot take advantage of unnecessary moments. We cannot turn this pain into a topic of debate - this is not a topic [of debate] at all. Yes, I have a hard ideological difference with them, on the subject of Judaism, about its past and its implications for the future of the Jewish people throughout the generations, so what?! But because of this, they are not Jews?!”

When pressed on whether he considered the Tree of Life congregation to be a synagogue, Rabbi Lau said, “Jews were murdered in a place where the murderer saw a place with a prominent Jewish character, a place with Torah scrolls, Jews with prayer shawls, there are siddurim (prayer-books) there, there are people who came there for the sake of closeness to God. The reality is that the murderer went to murder specifically there, and not to another place. Over this, there is pain and anger.”

“Lau’s quote was grossly taken out of context — not a single news report actually quoted the full interview, in which the rabbi mourned the victims and emphasized that a conversation about denominational differences is irrelevant here,” the Forward wrote in a piece reposted on Rabbi Lau's Facebook account.

The post explained that "Some interpreted this a question dodge — but that’s a deliberate stretch, one that is politically fueled and deeply divisive."

According to the post, Lau had wanted to use “a classic, emotional description of a synagogue, a description that he knew would resonate with his readers. He depicted a synagogue scene in detail, so Orthodox readers would relate to it beyond denominational differences — ‘Torah scrolls…Jews with prayer shawls…siddurim.’ Lau explicitly described the Tree of Life as a synagogue, as a place people go ‘for the sake of closeness to God,’ when saying, ‘Why does it matter in what synagogue or what liturgy they were praying?!’”

“Criticize the Israeli rabbinate all you want — but reading into the chief rabbi’s horror over this massacre, and using it as a way to sow division between American and Israeli Jews, and between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, is really not what we need right now, while the dead still lay unburied.”