Pittsburgh synagogue rabbi says Trump showed ‘warm and personal side’ during visit

(CNN) — The rabbi of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh said Thursday he was “surprised by a warm and personal side” to President Donald Trump during their meeting earlier this week.

“The President was very warm, very consoling. (He) put his hand on my shoulder, and the first question he asked me was, ‘Rabbi, tell me, how are you doing?'” Jeffrey Myers told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.”

“And I must say, throughout the time we spent together, I was pleasantly surprised by a warm and personal side to the President that I don’t think America has ever seen,” he said. “I told my personal story of my experience which they found quite shocking and upsetting.”

Myers, who was leading services at Tree of Life during Saturday’s shooting, met with Trump, the first lady and his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner on Tuesday when they visited the Tree of Life synagogue to pay their respects to the 11 victims.

He told Camerota that during a private meeting with the first family, he shared his message that, “Hate speech has no place in our society.”

“Hate speech led to the death of seven of my congregants and 11 total in my building,” Myers said.

The suspect in the massacre, Robert Bowers, is accused of targeting the Saturday morning services at the synagogue after making anti-Semitic posts online. He also said he wanted to kill Jews during his shootout with police, authorities say.

During Trump’s trip, Myers accompanied the President and the first lady to a makeshift memorial erected outside of the synagogue where the couple placed stones and white rosebuds on each memorial. Myers told Camerota that he told the President something about each of the victims as they walked alongside the memorial.

“The President needed to know something about these people because they, too, were his citizens,” he said.

Myers faced criticism for accepting a visit from Trump, whom many local and national leaders declined to join. But the rabbi told Camerota that he wanted to meet with Trump to share a message of love.

“Hate is not how you fight hate. You have to fight hate with love and compassion and understanding … and that’s why I met with the President, to share that same message,” he said.