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Rabbi tells politicians to 'get off their rear ends' after synagogue massacre

Image: Tammy Hepps, Kate Rothstein and her daughter, Simone Rothstein pray
Tammy Hepps, Kate Rothstein and her daughter, Simone Rothstein, 16, pray a block away from the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Copyright Jeff Swensen Getty Images
Copyright Jeff Swensen Getty Images
By Saphora Smith and Miguel Almaguer with NBC News U.S. News
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"What are the prayers going to do at this point? We need to take action whatever that might be," said Chuck Diamond, a former rabbi at the synagogue.


A former rabbi at the Pittsburgh synagogue where agunman opened fire on a service killing 11 people has called on lawmakers to take action.

Rabbi Chuck Diamond, who for seven years led the Tree of Life synagogue in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, also said he knew many of those killed and added they were close to his heart.

Bruton, Frances (127002440)
Rabbi Chuck Diamond.Bruton, Frances (127002440)

"I wish the politicians on both sides of the aisle would get off their rear ends and do something significant about it," he said. "That's what's frustrating."

Gun control and mental health had to be addressed, Diamond said.

The country as a whole had too much "experience" of mass shootings and something had to be done, he added.

"It happens over and over and over again," he said, adding that at this stage people sending prayers was not enough.

"What are the prayers going to do at this point? We need to take action whatever that might be," he said.

President Donald Trump lamented Saturday the "hate in our country" and condemned anti-Semitism.

But these sorts assaults are on the rise. The Anti-Defamation League reports there were nearly 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents this year — a 57 percent increase from last year.

On Saturday, Trump also said that better security at the congregation could have prevented the massacre.

"They had a maniac walk in and they didn't have any protection and that is so sad to see," Trump said at Joint Base Andrews in the Maryland suburbs Saturday before he departed for a campaign swing in the Midwest. "If you take a look at it, if they had protection inside the results would have been far better."

Thesuspected gunman Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue at around 9.45 a.m. on Saturday and began shooting as services got underway, authorities said. They believe the suspect was in the synagogue a total of 20 minutes. The names of the victims have not yet been released.

Diamond, who is still very active in the Jewish community of Squirrel Hill, admitted that thethought of being attackedhad always been "in the back of my mind."

"I'm always thinking as I was up there leading services what if that guy looks suspicious, what's he got under his coat," the rabbi said. "Unfortunately, I think that's the world we live in."

He added that the community would pull together in face of the tragedy. "We have to overcome the hate which is surrounding us," he said.

"Everybody feels like they were attacked in that synagogue," he added. "The community will come together, we're very strong."

The Pittsburgh Steelers tweeted their condolences Saturday and said there would be a moment of silence for the victims and their families ahead of their game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday. "We send our thoughts and prayers to those affected by this morning's tragedy in Pittsburgh," the team tweeted.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also tweeted their condolences. "We are incredibly saddened to hear of this morning's tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh," read the tweet.

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