Connecticut political and religious leaders react to mass shooting.
Politicians, Religious Respond To ‘Dark Day’ As Security Boosted At Houses Of Worship
The mass killing at a synagogue in Pittsburgh prompted an increase in security at synagogues around Connecticut as political and religious leaders reacted with horror to Saturday’s tragedy that killed 11 people.
Police vigilance was heightened from Bridgeport to West Hartford at synagogues and other houses of worship, as communities made plans to hold vigils to mourn those lost in Pennsylvania.
Rabbi Rebekah Goldman of the Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation in Simsbury said the tragedy will increase awareness. She said the congregation will gather at the synagogue, 55 Bushy Hill Road in Simsbury, for a vigil at 6 p.m. Sunday.
“I’m sure that there will be increased security, but at this point most of the synagogues have implemented a variety of security measures,’’ Goldman said. “Our building is only open a certain number of hours, and it locks when a service begins. Shortly after a service begins, the doors lock. We’ve taken those precautions. It doesn’t feel fantastic to lock people outside the building, but when we’re all praying, we’re not able to be as vigilant and as aware.’’
Historically, Jews have been keenly aware of violence in the Middle East, but not as often in the United States, she said.
“As a Jew, initially these types of situations we think of happening in Israel,’’ Goldman said. “We don’t think of them happening in America. In this climate that we’re in now, with the more hate and the more violence we’re seeing, it’s a bit surreal. Frankly, I’m a little speechless.’’
She added, “I haven’t really had to deal with this kind of a climate before. I don’t even know what to say. It’s just shocking.’’
Around the state, political leaders and police immediately reacted Saturday to the shootings. Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim announced that security would be increased at all synagogues, churches and mosques in the city.
“A house of worship should always be a sacred place of refuge and spiritual comfort, not a place where people coming together to pray as a community on the Sabbath must run for cover and hide from bullets,” Ganim said. “An attack on any synagogue or church is an attack on us all. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Jewish Community all over the United States and the world, and we want to send a clear message that hate has no place in Bridgeport, or anywhere.”
In West Hartford, police Lt. Michael Alquist said the department is alert to security at the Jewish Community Center on Bloomfield Avenue and other synagogues around town.
Officers “have been directed to increase their presence at the synagogues,”’ Alquist said. “Park there. Write their reports there. The synagogues have also hired private-duty police officers working overtime or extra capacity. … We tell all our churches to be vigilant.”
In West Hartford, a community candlelight vigil is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday on the steps of Congregation Beth Israel at 701 Farmington Ave. to mourn and pray for those killed and wounded.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy insisted that Congress needs to take action on gun control to halt such deadly incidents.
“We cannot continue down this path,” Murphy said. “Something must change. … How many times must our country grieve the senseless murder of innocent people before Congress does something about it?”
“We mourn with Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life community on this dark day,” Malloy said. “Today’s senseless attack is yet another tragic reminder that hatred, intolerance and violence consume the hearts of too many people.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said, “A place of worship should be one of the safest places in our society. Unfortunately, horrendous acts of violence and hate crimes like this have become our new norm.”
During a news conference Saturday, officials said the suspect had been in the synagogue for about 20 minutes and had an assault rifle and three handguns on him at the time. Officials said they believe the suspect was shot by police, but the investigation was still continuing. No children were among those killed. At least seven people, including four police officers, were wounded in the attacks, which officials said will be prosecuted as a federal hate crime.
Saturday’s shooting came days after multiple pipe bombs were mailed to prominent political leaders, including former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. No injuries were reported as the bombs did not explode, and a Florida man was arrested in the attacks after a nationwide manhunt.
Murphy warned that, in addition to the gun control issue, “access to online cesspools of racial and religious hatred comes too easily today.”
“Too often, political leaders are trading in the kind of divisive rhetoric that causes people to fear those that look or worship differently than them, and then act on those fears,” Murphy said.
Republican Matt Corey, who is running against Murphy in the Senate race, said, “There is no comprehending such a heinous act in a house of God. I fully support charging the alleged perpetrator — and any others if they are found to be involved — under federal anti-terrorism laws, and if found guilty, promptly applying the maximum penalty of death by execution.”
Corey added, “My deep, profound and heartfelt sorrow goes out to the families and friends of the victims of this despicable and cowardly act. And I, like all Americans, am grateful to the courage and skill and the law enforcement professionals who promptly and professionally responded to the incident and brought it to a conclusion.”
Republican Bob Stefanowski, who is running for governor, said, “This despicable act of hate and anti-Semitism is something that has no place in civilized society. We are better than this. Our hearts are broken for the families of the victims who are suffering today.’’
Democrat Ned Lamont, who is running against Stefanowski and independent candidate Oz Griebel, said, “The person who committed this bloodshed against the Jewish community had access to deadly guns that belong on the battlefields of war — not on the quiet streets of our cities and towns. And the person who committed this act did so during a national climate that is stoking hate and hostility, emboldening people’s worst instincts, and allowing the darkest parts of society to proudly embrace hate in the open. The result was that innocent, unsuspecting Jewish Americans, seeking nothing more than to attend their synagogue this morning for prayer, have been lost.’’
Lamont added, “We must condemn hate whenever and wherever we see it, and when a specific group of Americans is targeted, we all have a moral obligation to stand up and speak out. Annie and I are thinking about those lost this morning and their loved ones. What a tragedy.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said, “Our hearts break and stomachs turn after these shameful anti-Semitic murders. My thoughts are with the families and brave law enforcement. Congress is complicit—by its inaction—in this loathsome epidemic of gun violence.’’