Pittsburgh, PA – Rapidly spreading reports by an LGBT website that a gay couple were making a bris at the time the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre occurred, prompting one rabbi to unleash a hateful tirade of fury saying that the victims deserved to die, have turned out to be completely false.
A story published by the Advocate one day after the mass shooting said that the bloodshed took place during a bris for twin boys that had been adopted by a pair of gay men.
The Advocate claimed that the information had come from a Facebook post written by the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, a local LGBT group, and that the information had been verified by three community members.
But while the Delta Foundation later edited its Facebook post, removing references to the reported gay bris when final confirmation of the event failed to materialize, the Advocate’s story has remained online.
In an email exchange with VIN News, Rabbi Jeffrey Meyers, spiritual leader of the Tree Of Life synagogue, stated unequivocally that the Advocate report was untrue.
“There was no bris taking place in our synagogue,” Rabbi Meyers told VIN News.
Neither the Advocate nor the Delta Foundation was available to comment on the matter.
In an interview with Shimon Gifter for VIN News at the Kinus Hashluchim on Sunday at Rockland Community College, Chabad emissary Rabbi Yisroel Altein of Pittsburgh said that he had been in touch with people who were in the synagogue during the shooting who also said that there had been no bris taking place when the gunman opened fire on worshippers.
But reports of the alleged bris prompted one Great Neck rabbi to deliver a strongly worded lecture to his followers, after being asked if it was appropriate to attend a Tehillim service in memory of those who were murdered in the attack.
Prefacing his remarks as the “state of the union from Yeshivas Bais Eliyahu,” Rabbi Mordechai Aderet said that the shooting was the direct result of the gay bris and likened those who died to the generation that was wiped out because of their sins during the flood that covered the world in the times of Noach.
“This is a brit milah in a Conservative shul, and the two men adopted a boy and did a brit milah, and you wonder why it was a massacre and now you want to say Tehillim for them?” queried Rabbi Aderet.
Continuing his diatribe, Rabbi Aderet said that reciting Tehillim for those who died while participating in a gay bris was akin to “spitting in Hashem’s face,” describing the victims as “sinners who embarrassed” G-d, adding that he “was not sorry for this disaster.”
Rabbi Aderet’s speech was removed from the Torah Anytime website where it had originally been posted, but drew a strong response from Rabbi Moshe Weinberger of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, who described the speech as “obscene” and “vile.”
Speaking passionately, Rabbi Weinberger said that those who died in Pittsburgh were killed for a single reason only: because they were Jews.
“The murderer didn’t hide that, that was his whole tachlis of going into that place,” said Rabbi Weinberger. “So, how dare any person standing up, whether it is in the Five Towns or Great Neck or Borough Park or Yerushalayim for that matter, to stand up and to say these are people from the mabul, these are people who are michalelei Shabbos … let that be a warning to the Jewish people, let that be a warning to all Jews. Hashem should forgive this person or these people for talking that way.”
Rabbi Weinberger pulled no punches in his criticism of Rabbi Aderet, who he did not identify by name, finishing his remarks by telling an individual in the audience who was recording his words “and you can send that to anyone you want, including the rabbi.”
Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi was another who spoke at length about the Pittsburgh tragedy, drawing parallels between the weekly Torah portion of Vayeira which discussed both bris milah and the atrocities of the city of Sodom and its subsequent destruction, and the events that transpired in Pittsburgh.
In a telephone interview with VIN News, Rabbi Mizrachi was surprised to learn that there had been no bris at the synagogue when the bloodbath erupted.
“So why is it reported?” asked Rabbi Mizrachi, adding, “They misled the public.”
Despite the misinformation, Rabbi Mizrachi said that he stood by his words, noting that while it is not his place to judge anyone, there is no punishment that comes to this world for no reason.
The bris story was not the only fake news that emerged in the aftermath of the tragedy in Pittsburgh. Early news reports that the oldest victim, 97 year old Rose Mallinger, was a Holocaust survivor proved to be untrue.
The Holocaust claim was debunked by a tweet posted a day after the shooting by family friend Sara Yood who wrote “Rose Mallinger was my dear friend’s great aunt.
She was not a Holocaust survivor. Please remove this misinformation – I am trying to this work on behalf of the family so they don’t have to deal with it. Thank you. #PittsburghSynagogue #TreeofLife.”
It also appeared on fact checking website Snopes(http://bit.ly/2yUFwkz), where it was classified as false. Numerous websites subsequently amended their reports to indicate that early claims that Mallinger had lived through the Holocaust were incorrect.