Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Hits Close to Home for Conn. Jewish Community

Members of the Jewish community in Connecticut reacted with shock and disbelief following the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday that claimed eleven lives.

The attack at the Tree of Life synagogue took place in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, a historically Jewish neighborhood considered one of the largest in the country. On Saturday night, Lea Schmerler, of Manchester, had yet to reach relatives living there. Her concern for them was amplified by fear that Saturday’s act of violence is just the beginning. “My parents were survivors of the Holocaust, so my feeling is, ‘here we go again,’” Schmerler said.

Howard Sovronsky, the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, was shocked to see his friend and counterpart Jeff Finkelstein, of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, on national television in the aftermath of the attack. The pair were together in Israel days earlier. “I turned on the TV this morning and there he was consoling his community after eleven people have been killed,” Sovronsky said.

As a precaution, Sovronsky said he is working with local police departments to add security to Jewish day schools in the area when school is in session on Monday.

Sovronsky said Jewish community leaders throughout the country are aware of a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, but that tensions nationwide should worry everyone. “Certainly the whole tone of hatred that is permeating our society now is something that we all should be concerned about,” he said.

For Maxine Lerman, of Manchester, the connections to family and friends in Pittsburgh hammered home the feeling that what happened in Pittsburgh could happen anywhere.

“You go to the synagogue to pray and pray for peace and to have something like that happen. You hear it happens other places. You don’t think it happens in your synagogue and it’s fairly close,” Lerman said.

The Jewish Federation is planning a vigil to stand in solidarity with victims of the shooting on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. on the steps of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford.

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