Five Years After the Deadliest Antisemitic Attack in U.S. History, the Killer Is on Trial

On October 27, 2018, Robert Bowers killed 11 people and injured six more at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue, where three separate congregations had gathered to worship that Saturday morning.

Man comforting woman
Chaplain Bob Ossler comforts members of the community outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, in the wake of the shooting. (Photo by Brendt A. Petersen/

Hours before, Bowers had posted online raging against a Jewish nonprofit that helps refugees resettle in the United States. “Screw your optics,” he wrote, “I’m going in.”

It was the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history.

“There is no making sense of this senseless act.” 

Bowers has been charged with 63 crimes—among them, 11 counts of hate crimes resulting in death and 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death. 

The trial began on May 30. Judy Clarke, Bowers’ defense lawyer, who has represented mass murderers like the Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph, said in her opening statement: “There is no making sense of this senseless act. Mr. Bowers caused extraordinary harm to many, many people.” There is “no dispute and there will be no doubt” that Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue and “shot every person he saw,” she added. 

Clarke is seeking to protect her client from the death penalty.

At a time when antisemitic incidents are on the rise across the country, STAND joins with the Jewish community to condemn all forms of antisemitism. 

AP: Pittsburgh synagogue trial is proving the obvious, but ultimately focused on the death penalty