11 Killed in Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre; Suspect Charged …

Posted By on October 28, 2018

It moved to its current site in Squirrel Hill in 1952, where it now takes up most of a corner block. About 26 percent of the Pittsburgh areas Jewish households are in Squirrel Hill, while another 31 percent of Jewish households are largely located in neighborhoods around there, Brandeis University researchers reported in a 2017 study.

About 48 percent of Jewish children in greater Pittsburgh live in Squirrel Hill, according to the study, which was carried out on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

[Squirrel Hill has long been one of the most deeply rooted Jewish neighborhoods in America.]

Squirrel Hill is really an amazing safe community, he said. It is the heart of Jewish Pittsburgh with kosher restaurants and bakeries and a Jewish Community Center. I lived for a while in Israel and I know what security can mean, but the truth is the two safest neighborhoods I know are Squirrel Hill and Jerusalem. Ive lived in both.

On the high holidays, when the sanctuary comes close to reaching its capacity of 1,450 congregants, there are security officers. But Saturday morning, he said, when there would be around 75 people, everything would have been wide open.

In recent years, the congregation size had dwindled and so now three congregations meet on Saturday morning, in three different parts of the synagogue. Its a very vibrant place on Saturday mornings, he said.

Rabbi Berkun had heard that the gunman had barricaded himself at one point in his old study. Still, threats were something he had never really thought about, not here.

As soon as he saw news of the shooting on social media, Zachary Weiss, 26, tried to get in touch with his father, Stephen Weiss, a longtime member of the Tree of Life Congregation.

By that time the elder Mr. Weiss was already in action, carrying out the all-too-real protocols of the active shooter response training that congregants at Tree of Life had put into place the year before. Recounting what his father told him, the younger Mr. Weiss said that services had just been getting started when he heard a loud noise.

There was a loud sound and a couple of people investigating it heard a couple more loud sounds, he said. Thats when my father and the rabbi discovered it was the sound of gunshots.

The rabbi instructed everyone to get to a safe place, and after the Tree of Life congregants had done so, his father considered the other congregations that meet in the building on Saturdays. The bris was taking place on a lower floor, and he checked first to make sure the people there were safe. They were.

His father never saw the shooter, Mr. Weiss said, but, before evacuating, he was at one point close enough to see the shell casings.

Its going to take a long while for us as a community to grasp this, he said.

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