Pittsburgh rabbi: No death penalty for synagogue shooter

Spiritual leader at Pittsburgh synagogue targeted by Robert Bowers urges Attorney General not to seek the death penalty for the gunman.

Ben Ariel ,

Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh
Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh
Alexi Rosenfeld

A spiritual leader at one of the three congregations that share the Tree of Life synagogue building in Pittsburgh has urged US Attorney General William Barr not to seek the death penalty for the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman, JTA reported Wednesday.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, whose New Light Congregation lost three worshippers in the October attack by Robert Bowers that killed 11, has written to Barr “as a victim of the attack,” reminding him that “both our religious traditions, yours Catholic and mine Jewish, vigorously oppose the death penalty.”

Although the Bible does condemn those who commit certain sins to death, he continued, the Talmud says that a court that puts a man to death once every 70 years is called a “bloodthirsty court.”

“I would like the Pittsburgh killer to be incarcerated for the rest of his life without parole. He should meditate on whether taking action on some white separatist fantasy against the Jewish people was really worth it,” the rabbi wrote, according to JTA. “Let him live with it forever. I am mainly interested in not letting this thug cause my community any further pain.”

He added that his congregants were still tending their wounds and did not wish to have them opened anew.

Bowers was armed with an AR-15 and three handguns and allegedly yelled “I want to kill all Jews” during the attack.

He was indicted on 44 counts at the end of October and later pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in a federal courtroom.

In January, a federal grand jury added 19 charges to the 44 counts previously levied against Bowers. 13 of the new counts are hate crime violations and the others accuse him of obstructing religious beliefs and discharging a firearm during crimes of violence.

Bowers pleaded not guilty to the new hate crimes charges as well.