Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Used to Hearing ‘Shabbat Shalom,’ a Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

Image
Tammy Hepps, Kate Rothstein and her daughter, Simone Rothstein, 16, prayed not far from the Tree of Life Synagogue.CreditCreditJeff Swensen/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH — Saturday morning in Squirrel Hill has for more than 100 years meant certain familiar rituals. The handing out of prayer books as latecomers quietly arrive at temple, the genial shouts of ‘Shabbat shalom’ across neighborhood streets as friends spot old friends after services.

This is the heart of Jewish Pittsburgh, one of the most deeply rooted Jewish neighborhoods in America. And on this Saturday morning, it was the site of what one of the city’s chief federal law enforcement officers called “the most horrific crime scene I have seen.”

Tree of Life, an understated temple on a rising street of tidy brick houses and pumpkin-decorated front porches, was a revered and historic Jewish institution in a neighborhood full of them.

After Saturday’s massacre, this meant a grief deep and wide. Everyone knew someone, or someone who did. The Jewish Community Center, a few blocks away from Tree of Life, became a command post of sorts, with grief counselors, law enforcement officials, Red Cross volunteers, extended families, members of various synagogues and food, lots and lots of food.

Down the street from the temple, a woman who belonged to Tree of Life was sobbing, surrounded by other women. A SWAT truck pulled down the street.

“It definitely brought everybody together in the way that really awful things do,” said Jess Nock, 38, a lawyer who has worshiped at Tree of Life for eight years.

[A man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue where three congregations worshiped.]

She spent the morning at the center, where information was difficult to follow. People arrived looking for others — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. One family learned of the shooting from their son, who was in Israel and saw it on the news. Some Orthodox Jews in the community, who do not use phones on the Sabbath, would surely not know about it for hours.

Image
Law enforcement officers secured the scene at the Pittsburgh temple.CreditAlexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Associated Press

“Every time somebody would say “Do you know where…” Ms. Nock trailed off. She had heard the worst about at least one member. But she did not know what had happened to many others.

Squirrel Hill is an old neighborhood, beginning as the quiet and leafy retreat of the better-off, who chose to take the trolley home after work and leave the smog-choked streets of downtown Pittsburgh. Prosperous German Jews followed, moving their temples with them and creating a vibrant culture that, unlike in so many other American cities, never decamped for the suburbs.

“It’s one of the only Jewish communities in the country that has stayed within the city,” said Barbara S. Burstin, a history professor who has written several books on Jewish Pittsburgh.

There are kosher bakeries and delis along Murray Avenue, and three Jewish day schools of different denominations. On Saturday mornings, Orthodox men in black hats and overcoats walk the sidewalks. More than a dozen temples — Reform, Orthodox and Conservative — dot the neighborhood, “all bumping up within a few blocks of each other,” Professor Burstin said.

[Read more about the shooting suspect, who frequently reposted anti-Semitic content on social media.]

The population of the neighborhood might not be majority Jewish anymore — there are more Asian restaurants along the main drag now than Jewish ones — but it is home to more than a quarter of all Pittsburgh area Jewish households, according to a 2017 report.

The Tree of Life congregation, originally formed in 1864, moved to Squirrel Hill in 1952. It thrived in the heyday of American Conservative Judaism, but like many houses of worship in big cities, it has seen its membership dwindle.

In recent years, to make better use of the space, two other synagogues were invited to worship at the building. Now all three do, in different rooms on Saturdays, all getting together in the atrium afterward.

A former rabbi at Tree of Life, Chuck Diamond, suspected that perhaps 25 or 30 people would have been there at the start of services, when the shooting broke out. Others would have arrived later, entering easily.

Image

People attended an interfaith vigil in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Credit Jared Wickerham for The New York Times

“It’s not the type of place where you’re going to walk in and people are going to look at you and say ‘Wait, I don’t know you,’” Ms. Nock said. “And locked doors: no way. There’s nothing less welcoming than inviting people to a door that’s locked.”

That the killer chose Tree of Life has baffled many in the community. There are much bigger temples in the area, and others with more visible congregations.

“This is not an obvious target in the Jewish community,” said Richard Brean, a retired general counsel for the steelworkers’ union and a lifelong resident of Squirrel Hill.

[From a Texas church to a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, houses of worship have become sites of mass shootings.]

But the members of Tree of Life had prepared for the possibility of violence, if only in theory, in the way so many schools and workplaces have in recent years. A year and a half ago, the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh hired a former F.B.I. officer to serve as a security director; he had trained dozens of organizations on how to plan for active shooters. The members of Tree of Life had developed such a protocol last year.

Anti-Semitic incidents had happened in the neighborhood before, recalled Shlomo Perelman, 68, who was walking down a street not far from Tree of Life not long after the shooting. Mr. Perelman recalled a rabbinical student being shot some 25 years ago.

But this was not about Squirrel Hill. It was about the country that surrounded it. “It’s not about the neighborhood,” said Mr. Perelman. He added, “The times are really changing.”

On Saturday night, several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil in a light rain at the intersection of Murray and Forbes Avenue, where nearby restaurants — a Turkish kebab house, a ramen bar and a bohemian tea cafe — were a testament to the area’s diversity.

“I am a different Jew today than I was yesterday,” said Sophia Levin, 15, one of several teenagers who spoke. “Anti-Semitism was something that happened in history, that happened in other places,” she said, her voice breaking.

“Tree of Life used to be just a synagogue that my grandparents went to, that my Mom grew up in, that we would go to on high holidays,” she said. “And today I feel like it’s something different.”

Trip Gabriel contributed from Pittsburgh.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Torrent of Gunshots Shifts Reality: ‘I Am a Different Jew Today’ . Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Coyote Mauls Woman and Leaves Her ‘Drenched in Blood,’ Police Say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

By ASSOCIATED PRESS

11:29 AM EDT

(BROOKVILLE, Pa.) — Authorities are on the hunt for a possibly rabid coyote that mauled a Pennsylvania woman, leaving her badly wounded and “drenched in blood.”

Brookville borough police say a night shift employee of an assisted living community was attacked around midnight Sunday while she was walking in the area. The Courier Express reports the animal attacked her from a nearby bush, biting her numerous times.

Brookville Police Chief Vince Markle says the woman was “drenched in blood” and required over 20 stitches and a rabies vaccination. He says the woman may also need reconstructive surgery.

Brookville is about 80 miles (about 130 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh.

Ohio Judge Has Been Shot Several Times Outside Courthouse, Shooter Is Dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN) A judge was shot and wounded Monday in a deliberate “ambush-style” assault outside a courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, and a suspect died during a shootout, a local sheriff told reporters.

Common Pleas Judge Joseph J. Bruzzese Jr. received medical attention after being shot about 8 a.m. outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in the eastern Ohio city more than 38 miles west of Pittsburgh.
“Fran and I are praying for Judge Bruzzese and his family at this difficult time,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said, referring to his wife.
He said it appears the suspect walked up to the judge as he approached the courthouse and shot him several times.
Abdalla said the suspect’s gun was in point-blank range, near the judge’s stomach.
He said the shooter was hit three times and his body remains at the scene. The judge was carrying a weapon and may have shot the suspect at least once.
However, Abdalla said, a probation officer on the scene also shot the suspect. Once the bullet slugs are removed from the body, it will be determined who shot the suspect.
One person was being flown by medical helicopter to a Pittsburgh-area hospital, according to Steubenville Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi. He would not disclose the person’s identity.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation at the Ohio attorney general’s office is investigating the shooting.

Any Racist Salutes By Any Athlete During National Anthem Should Be Forbidden

 

This past Monday evening I was going to watch the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49’s NFL football game. I had caught the last few moments of the previous game between Pittsburgh and Washington so I decided to stay on channel  and watch some of the next game. I had forgotten about the fact that the backup quarterback for the 49’s would be a focus point during the Anthem, you know whom I am speaking of don’t you? The man who has chosen to stay seated during the Anthem as a protest about how non-whites are treated here in America. Even though I believe that he has the right to make this silent statement I personally do not believe that any American should disgrace our Country in such a manner. A person, especially a person whom makes millions of dollars per year playing a game in a country where only this Country would do that for them, really has much validity in their protest, especially in such a manner. For those of you who are unaware of this young quarterback he is a person whom is half black via his Dad and half white from his Mom and even his Mom spoke out against what he is doing earlier this week.

 

Today this article is not about what the SF quarterback did or did not do Monday night, it is about something totally different that I witnessed during the Anthem. I am a person who is against any and all hate and against any and all racism, as racism is hatred and they are both a sin that should not be encouraged in any way. This article is about some of the other SF players who were standing, and giving the “Black Power” salute. I watched the game up until SF took a seven to zero lead on Washington then I went to bed. During those few moments of broadcast time I did not hear the broadcasters say one word about the players who did this very racist display of hatred. To me a blatant racist salute should not ever be tolerated in any event ever. The cowardliness of the TV broadcasters not commenting on these players doing this is sickening. I have a total belief that if at an NFL game this weekend some of the white players pull out KKK hoods and put them on during the Anthem that all of the media would go crazy, it would be the number one news story, as it should be. Doing a black power salute during the National Anthem just like the wearing of KKK hoods should be grounds for being thrown out of that game at the very least. Black racism is a disgrace to the black race just like white racism is a disgrace to the white race. Racism is pure ignorance, no matter what a person’s color is and this ignorance and hatred has no place in any Country and darn sure not during any Country’s National Anthem.