‘Our hearts are breaking’
ADL: Likely the deadliest attack on U.S. Jewish community in nation’s history
The Anti-Defamation League said its research showed that Saturday’s shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue was likely the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the nation’s history.
“Our hearts are breaking for those killed and injured,” said Steve Ginsburg, director of the Connecticut Region of the ADL.
Ginsburg said he contacted Jewish leaders across Connecticut to figure out how to respond to the violence, and that the ADL was working on a plan to support the victims of Saturday’s shooting, which killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
The shooter, identified by authorities as 46-yearold Robert Bowers, was in custody, and the massacre was being investigated as a hate crime. The shooting also prompted synagogues in Connecticut and elsewhere to re-examine safety measures.
“Any act of senseless hatred just shakes you to the core,” said Rabbi Mitchell Hurvitz, of Temple Sholom in Greenwich.
Hurvitz said his temple is proactive with security and works closely with the town’s police. Faith communities in Greenwich plan to organize a memorial service or vigil in tribute to the Pittsburgh victims, he said.
In Bridgeport, Police Chief Armando Perez said his department has stepped up security measures at all synagogues, mosques and churches in the city.
“There’s no threat to the immediate area, but you always have to be careful,” Perez said. “There’s always a chance of copy-cat incidents . ... I don’t think anything’s going to happen here, but I’m not going to take a chance. I don’t take chances with public safety.”
Temple Israel in Westport vowed to always protect its members.
“I want you to know that security of our congregants, students and staff continues to be our highest priority,” said a statement by Rabbi Michael S. Friedman. “We have professional security on our premises every day. Our staff and lay leadership work closely with world-class security consultants to regularly review our many security protocols and procedures.”
Beyond that, Friedman’s statement said, “Friends, let us gather righteous people together, so that we can bring hope, healing and peace to a world so deeply in need of redemption.”
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called the mass shooting in Pittsburgh “heart-wrenching.”
“We cannot continue down this path — something must change,” Murphy said. He said loose gun laws are to blame, as are online “cesspools of racial and religious hatred.”
“People in Connecticut are sick of this. I am sick of this,” Murphy said. “That’s why I will keep doing everything I can to make our world a safer and more tolerant world for our children.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., echoed Murphy’s sentiments.
“Our hearts break and stomachs turn after these shameful anti-Semitic murders,” Blumenthal said. “My thoughts are with the families and brave law enforcement. Congress is complicit — by its inaction — in this loathsome epidemic of gun violence.”
Ginsburg said there has been a historic increase in anti-Semitic incidents, and that online forums that allow that hate speech are prevalent. After the shooting, he said, the ADL looked at data about attacks on the Jewish community that has been formally recorded since the 1970s.
“Our information is that this is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the U.S.,” he said.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim released his own statement, condemning the violence.
“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.”