Carmel rabbi receives request from President Trump after shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue

CARMEL, Ind. – A Carmel rabbi answered a request from President Trump hours after 11 people were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow led prayer during the president’s speech on Saturday at the Future Farmers of America convention in Indianapolis.

Rabbi Sendrow usually does not look at his phone or use his car on Sabbath. However, he kept getting a call from Washington, DC so he picked up his phone and it was the White House.

He led the convention in prayer with pastor Thom O’Leary. President Trump stood on stage with them.

“To be in the presence of the president is an overwhelming honor,” Rabbi Sendrow said. “But that was not at all why I was there. I was there to pray for the victims of the shooting, both the survivors and the families of those who did not survive. That was what was foremost in my heart and mind.”

1,986 incidents of anti-Semitic were reported nationwide last year according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. ADL found the number of incidents in the U.S. rose 57 percent in 2017.

A vandal painted Nazi flags on the property of Rabbi Sendrow’s synagogue, Congregation Shaarey Tefilla, in July. He was horrified to hear about the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“A mixture of shock and grief,” he said. “Our country is becoming meaner and cruder and coarser as we become less and less connected to our religious values.”

He praised the president for condemning the actions of the suspected shooter. President Trump suggested the house of worship should have had armed guards. Rabbi Sendrow said they will increase security at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla but also remain inclusive.

“A policeman with a gun is the best way to stop an evil person with a gun,” he said. “I don’t love the idea of having to have armed security but our greatest value as Jews is the protection of human life.”

President Trump also emphasized that the suspect in the shooting should get the death penalty. Rabbi Sendrow said the ultimate crime must be punished by the ultimate punishment.

There is a memorial service scheduled for Monday at 5:30 p.m at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation.

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