Tree of Life synagogue disputes Biden’s claim he visited after massacre

Tree of Life synagogue disputes Biden’s claim he visited after massacre

September 3, 2021

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President Biden on Thursday told Jewish leaders that he spent time at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh after the October 2018 mass murder of 11 people there — but the synagogue told The Post he never visited.

“I remember spending time at the, you know, going to the, you know, the Tree of Life synagogue, speaking with them,” Biden said in a 16-minute virtual address ahead of the Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Barb Feige, executive director of the Tree of Life, said that Biden did not visit the synagogue in the nearly three years since the anti-Semitic attack.

In a phone interview, Feige, executive director since July 2019, said firmly that “no” Biden didn’t visit, even before taking office when he had a lower public profile as a former vice president and then-Democratic presidential candidate.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Then-President Donald Trump visited the Tree of Life three days after the worst anti-Jewish hate crime in US history. Trump was joined by prominent Jewish members of his administration, including his daughter Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Biden last year issued a statement on the second anniversary of the attack, saying, “When anti-Semitism is allowed to fester, it shreds the fabric of our communities and erodes our soul.”

In his Thursday remarks to Jewish leaders, Biden also praised Pope Francis and shared personal anecdotes about his own links to Judaism and Israel.

“I happen to be a practicing Catholic and one of the things I like about my pope today is that he’s all about renewal and forgiveness… and I hope I’m going to get to see him in the not too distant future,” Biden said.

The president went on to reflect on his daughter Ashley Biden marrying a Jewish surgeon, Howard Krein, in 2012 and to recount his conversations with the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

“My daughter married a Jewish young man. And, you know, it’s the dream of every Catholic father that she married a Jewish doctor,” Biden joked.

“We had a chuppah on the altar… Now some of you aren’t gonna like this, but it was co-officiated by a Catholic priest as well as a Jewish rabbi.”

Biden said that his only request was for “my favorite hymn” to be played at the wedding — “On Eagle’s Wings” — but that he was unpleasantly surprised when the ceremony instead played “Hava Nagilah.”

“I only asked one thing… And they played, and my mind is going blank now, what’s the song that is played where everybody is on the chair? I can’t remember it. Anyway, but that’s the song that was played,” Biden recounted.

The president added: “So you know, I don’t know what the hell’s going on here. I just had one little favor, you know, just that they play ‘On Eagle’s Wings’.”

Biden mentioned his interactions with Meir while discussing his recent meeting at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“She kept pulling the maps down and showing me how many people have died and what happened,” said Biden, who took office as a senator in 1973 and met with Meir that year.

“She said, ‘We have no place else to go. We have no place else to go.’ Well, the truth of the matter is, that’s probably true, but it’s so sad. And we have to make — we have to continue to fight like hell to make sure there’s any place,” Biden said.

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