Jewish nurse who treated suspected synagogue shooter ‘chose to show him empathy’

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Nurse Ari Mahler has spoken out in a Facebook post about his experience treating the suspected shooter.
Nurse Ari Mahler has spoken out in a Facebook post about his experience treating the suspected shooter.

Image: Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

When suspected Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers was treated at Allegheny General Hospital, the nurses and doctors — some of whom were Jewish — went ahead and did their jobs as normal.

One of the nurses who treated Bowers in the emergency room, Ari Mahler, has spoken out in a Facebook post about his experience treating the suspected shooter. Mahler said that he chose to be empathetic, despite the horrors of that day.

“I’m sure he had no idea I was Jewish. Why thank a Jewish nurse, when 15 minutes beforehand, you’d shoot me in the head with no remorse?” he wrote in the post.

“I didn’t say a word to him about my religion. I chose not to say anything to him the entire time. I wanted him to feel compassion. I chose to show him empathy. I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong. Besides, if he finds out I’m Jewish, does it really matter? The better question is, what does it mean to you?”

Mahler, who experienced anti-Semitism “a lot” while growing up, said he was nervous about writing the post but felt like he had to speak for himself. He said that he wasn’t surprised that the shooting had occurred, given a thriving “underbelly” of anti-semitism. 

“I chose to show him empathy. I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong.”

“To be honest, it’s only a matter of time before the next one happens. History refutes hope that things will change. My heart yearns for change, but today’s climate doesn’t foster nurturing, tolerance, or civility,” he added.

The nurse said he didn’t see evil in Bowers’ eyes, and noted the suspected shooter even thanked Mahler for his help. 

What Mahler did see was someone who was “easily influenced by propaganda,” and the kind of person who is “manipulated by people with a microphone, a platform, and use fear for motivation.” But Mahler says he personally chose to act out of love rather than fear.

“Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope. It demonstrates humanity. It reaffirms why we’re all here. The meaning of life is to give meaning to life, and love is the ultimate force that connects all living beings,” he wrote.

“I could care less what Robert Bowers thinks, but you, the person reading this, love is the only message I wish instill in you. If my actions mean anything, love means everything.”

Bowers plead not guilty Thursday to 44 federal charges, 32 of which are punishable by death, following the shooting which left 11 people dead at the Tree of Life synagogue.

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