Squirrel Hill neighbors react to death sentence verdict in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

PITTSBURGH — The community around the Tree of Life Synagogue is reacting to the jury’s decision of death for shooter Robert Bowers.

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“I was at work when I saw the news about the verdict and I had to leave work,” Sarah Grumet said. She spoke to Channel 11 outside the synagogue Wednesday afternoon.

Sarah is part of Squirrel Hill’s Jewish community but did not attend Tree of Life.

“I think that any Squirrel Hill Jew felt this whether or not it was their congregation,” she said. “It absolutely could’ve been any of us. It was just happenstance this is where it occurred.”

She was one of many who stopped by the shuttered synagogue to offer prayers and reflect. Others laid flowers. One woman told Channel 11 she brought ‘Roses of Sharon’ specifically to honor victim Rose Mallinger.

Reaction to the verdict itself was mixed. Jillian Miles lives near the synagogue and is typically not a believer in the death penalty.

“But at the same time, this community really needed justice. To some degree, I felt, good riddance. We can finally move past this and into a brighter future,” she said.

A brighter future for the community and the synagogue itself. It was once a centerpiece of the community but has been closed for the better part of five years. There are plans to transform it into a complex with a sanctuary, museum and memorial.

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“I think it’s so important to see what this can become. Start a new chapter. Passing this building, it has always felt heavy and it’s an exciting prospect to feel light again and have it feel comforting again,” Jillian said.

“I know for myself, just seeing the headline ripped open a lot of 5-year-old scars but I’m hopeful that this will allow everybody some measure of peace,” Sarah said.

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