Con­necti­cut po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious lead­ers re­act to mass shoot­ing.

Politi­cians, Re­li­gious Re­spond To ‘Dark Day’ As Se­cu­rity Boosted At Houses Of Wor­ship

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Front Page - By CHRISTO­PHER KEAT­ING ck­eat­ing@courant.com Courant staff writer Gre­gory Hladky contributed to this re­port.

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.’’

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