Monday morning was the beginning of the jury selection for the deadliest antisemitic attack in the United States.
In October 2018, a gunman opened fire on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, attacking three congregations that were holding Sunday services. Eleven people were killed.
The community has since been a strong force in fighting antisemitism across the country and plans to renovate the synagogue and built a memorial and museum to inspire others, per The Associated Press.
Robert G. Bowers, 50, now faces 63 different charges in connection with the shooting, including 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religion and 11 accounts of hate crimes, all resulting in death, per AP.
Bowers’ trial is expected to be in two parts. The first part will concern his guilt and the second will concern whether he will be executed, reported The New York Times.
In exchange for a guilty plea, the defendant’s attorneys tried to negotiate lifetime imprisonment without the possibility of being released, but federal prosecutors refused, per the Times.
As the trial moves forward, different opinions are circulating within the community about whether the death sentence is the best outcome.
Family members of the victims have said that anything short of death would be an “easy way out.” Others, like the rabbi of the New Light congregations and some members of the Dor Hadish congregation, urge that the death penalty is not right, citing their faith. Another fear regards how an extended trial — as a result of pursuing execution — would further traumatize those who were involved, per the Times.
To combat the dredging up of the painful past, community leaders have begun fortifying mental support, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“We can all take responsibility for caring for each other’s mental health during this challenging time,” Maggie Feinstein, director of the 10.27 Healing Partnership that was created after the shooting, told the Post-Gazette. “Some people may experience trauma from the trial, and some people who have healed may experience setbacks. All of these feelings are normal, and everyone should feel comfortable seeking mental health resources if they need. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health effects from the trial, go to 1027healingpartnership.org to find help.”