At State of the Union, lawmakers sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Holocaust and Tree of Life shooting survivor

Judah Samet was a special guest at the State of the Union

  • Ed Mahon

During the State of the Union address, President Donald Trump honored two guests connected to the October mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in which 11 people were killed.

And members of Congress sang “Happy Birthday” to Judah Samet, who survived the Holocaust decades ago and survived the Tree of Life shooting in October.

During the address, Trump first talked about Timothy Matson, who joined the Pittsburgh Police Department in 2005. As a member of the SWAT team, he suffered multiple gunshot wounds after responding to the attack.

“SWAT officer Timothy Matson raced into the gunfire and was shot seven times, chasing down the killer,” Trump said. “And he was very successful.”

Trump said Matson recently had his 12th surgery, and “he’s going in for many more.” But Matson still made the trip to Washington, D.C., for the State of the Union.

Trump then talked about Samet.

“He arrived as the synagogue as the massacre began,” Trump said. “But not only did Judah narrowly escape death last fall, more than seven decades ago he narrowly survived the Nazi concentration camps.”

Trump told the crowd that it was Samet’s 81st birthday, and then some in the joint session of Congress sang, “Happy Birthday” to Samet. Trump laughed and pretended to conduct with his fingers.

“They wouldn’t do that for me, Judah,” Trump said.

Trump then described how Samet and his family were saved from a concentration camp decades ago.

“He and his family were put on a train and told they were going to another camp. Suddenly, the train screeched to a very strong halt. A soldier appeared,” Trump said. “Judah’s family braced for the absolute worse. Then his father cried out with joy, ‘It’s the Americans! It’s the Americans!’ ”

Days after the Oct. 27 shooting, Trump visited Pittsburgh, despite objections from Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto and some Jewish leaders. In an open letter, members of the progressive Jewish group Bend the Arc wrote, “President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.”

Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press

President Donald Trump gestures as a conductor as people in the chamber sing “Happy Birthday” to Judah Samet as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

Others defended the president. Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told CNN that the criticism of Trump was “misplaced,” and Brooks said Trump’s condemnation of anti-Semitism was “very powerful and very strong.”

At Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Trump discussed the Pittsburgh shooting after talking about his decision to withdraw the United States from a nuclear deal with Iran and to impose sanctions on the country.

“We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants, ‘Death to America,’ and threatens genocide against the Jewish people,” Trump said. “We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism or those who spread its venomous creed.”

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