What To Know: The Big Story
Fight for killer’s life: As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s religion editor, Peter Smith was a key part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting, which claimed 11 lives.
Now with The Associated Press, Smith is providing must-read coverage of the federal trial in the case that started this week:
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Robert Bowers carried out the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history when he killed 11 people and injured seven others by storming a Pittsburgh synagogue and shooting everyone he could find. On that, everyone agrees.
Even though Bowers’ defense acknowledged at the outset of his federal trial Tuesday that he was the gunman, they hope to spare the suburban truck driver from a possible death sentence over the Oct. 27, 2018, massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue.
Bowers “shot every person he saw” that day in the building, his lead lawyer, Judy Clarke, said in her opening statement. But she questioned whether Bowers had acted out of hatred, as prosecutors contend, or an irrational belief that he needed to kill Jews to save others from the genocide he claimed they were enabling by helping immigrants come to the U.S.
Show of defiance: In compelling testimony Wednesday and again on Thursday, survivors recounted the fear they experienced and the heroism they witnessed during the attack. At several moments, Smith noted, witnesses “used the opportunity to educate the jury about their faith — a show of defiance before the man who tried to destroy them and who has expressed little emotion while seated at the defense table.”
Tracking antisemitic threats: The Tree of Life shooting “led to arguably the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to protect Jewish institutions in America.”
In a front-page piece for the New York Times this week, Campbell Robertson details the expansion of “the Secure Community Network, the closest thing to an official security agency for American Jewish institutions.”
Like Smith, Robertson is covering Bowers’ trial, as is the Wall Street Journal’s Kris Maher.
Power Up: The Week’s Best Reads
1. School prayer fight: “Buoyed by the right-wing Supreme Court, Christian groups are laying the groundwork for public schools to veer back toward the 1960s.”
Linda K. Wertheimer, who has extensive experience covering education and religion, goes “Inside the Christian legal crusade to revive school prayer.”
Her story is a joint project for the New Republic and the Hechinger Report.
2. After the flames: “When the world’s most recognizable cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris, burned on April 15, 2019, the toppling of its spire was the catastrophe’s defining moment — a dreamlike loop endlessly replayed, a stuttering stop-time interval that seemed, improbably, to last forever.”
At The Associated Press, Jeffrey Schaeffer explains that the fire-ravaged roof is being rebuilt using medieval techniques.
3. $150 million lawsuit: “A group of former followers of Dave Ramsey has sued the Christian finance guru and radio host, along with his company and a marketing firm, for endorsing a failed timeshare exit company that allegedly defrauded customers out of millions.”
That’s the latest from Religion News Service’s Bob Smietana — who got doxxed by Ramsey’s company after doing a lengthy investigative piece on it in 2021.
CONTINUE READING: “Tree Of Life Synagogue Massacre: Fear And Heroism Recounted At Death Penalty Trial” by Bobby Ross, Jr., at Religion Unplugged.