Press Release

American Federation of Teachers President and Local Union Leaders on Terrorist Act at Pittsburgh Synagogue

For Release: 

Saturday, October 27, 2018


Oriana Korin

WASHINGTON—Statements from AFT President Randi Weingarten, AFT Pennsylvania President Ted Kirsch and Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis:

Weingarten said:

“This time, we mourn a synagogue shooting, not a school shooting, but it is no less painful or tragic. Terrorism comes in many forms. The domestic extremism that has turned Americans against one another is a reflection of the undeniable hatred plaguing our communities. This time, it’s a murderer radicalized by a hatred of Jews; earlier this week, it was a mail bomber. Our hearts break for the community of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and everyone affected by this anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant massacre. 

“Most synagogues do have security, but, just like in our schools, pretending that a good guy with a gun can singularly stop people armed with assault rifles and weapons of war is magical thinking. Law enforcement, who acted heroically, could not stop this murderer. The fact that mass shootings persist in our democracy is a public health crisis that we must tackle immediately: with commonsense gun safety laws, with access to mental health services, and with a renewed commitment to teaching tolerance.

“Personally, as a Jew, when confronted by anti-Semitism, I lean into my practice of Judaism. As a teacher, I lean into our work to educate for a more tolerant and inclusive America. As an activist, I lean into the fight against hate and the fight for a better and safer nation. Let us all work for a fairer and more decent country in the memory of those who were lost today.”

Kirsch said:

“Our synagogues, our schools, and the public spaces at the center of our neighborhoods should be safe havens, but today in America, people now feel in danger where they learn and where they worship. When an armed citizen seeks to murder Jews and others who support refugees, it represents a heinous assault on some of our most basic freedoms. Today, that evil made its way to Pennsylvania, and we condemn it at every turn.”

Esposito-Visgitis said:

“The educators and school support staff of the city of Pittsburgh are devastated that a shooter would target members of our community based on their religion and their progressive values. We are committed to teaching Pittsburgh’s students inclusivity and tolerance, and we will not let this act of terror cause us to abandon that commitment.”  

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.