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Deputy AG Rosenstein condemns anti-Semitism, announces new hate crime initiatives after synagogue attack

"Together we can find ways to improve reporting of hate crimes," the No. 2 Department of Justice official said Monday.
Deputy U.S. Attorney Rosenstein participates in roundtable discussion on hate crimes in Washington
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rosenstein addresses a round table discussion on "improving the identification and reporting of hate crimes," through the Justice Department's Hate Crimes Enforcement and Prevention Initiative in Washington on Oct. 29, 2018.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Monday condemned anti-Semitism and the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 worshippers dead as he announced several new Department of Justice initiatives to help combat hate crimes.

At a law enforcement roundtable about hate crime prevention in Washington, D.C., Rosenstein said his agency had launched a website that would help local authorities identify and report hate crimes to federal officials. He also said the federal government would fund a study, to be conducted at the University of New Hampshire, to research the origins, policing and reporting of hate crimes.

"Simply because hate crimes are not reported does not mean they are not happening,” Rosenstein said. “Together we can find ways to improve reporting of hate crimes that will allow us to more effectively target our resources to where they are most needed."

His remarks, and the departments new initiatives, came just two days after a gunman — identified as Robert Bowers — opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue where Sabbath services were taking place, killing at least 11 people and wounding several police officers before he was taken into custody. Social media accounts that appear to belong to Bowers contained posts with anti-Semitic messages and hate speech. Bowers reportedly said "All Jews must die" before opening fire in the synagogue.

Bowers was charged Saturday night with 29 federal counts, including 11 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder and 11 counts of obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and other counts.

Rosenstein said the attack served "as a stark reminder of the need to protect all Americans against hate crimes."

"There must be no tolerance for anti-Semitism in America," he added.

Rosenstein said America's founders "prized liberty" and "designed our government to protect it" and quoted a 1790 letter from George Washington to the Jewish population of Newport, R.I., in condemning anti-Semitism.

"In America, Washington believed that freedom to practice a minority religion is a matter of right and not an indulgence from the majority," Rosenstein said.