‘It could be any of us’: Local Jewish leaders mourn Pittsburgh attack

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — People all over the country are gathering to remember the lives taken in Pittsburgh over the weekend.

“It could be any of us,” said Ohef Sholom Cantor Jennifer Rueben.

Every Saturday morning, Jewish synagogues across Hampton Roads are home to prayer, but there is always that thought “what if somebody comes in with a gun?”

“All of us have thought that,” Rueben added.  “Where are the exits?  How would we direct our congregants out?  It’s just something that we can not afford to not think about.”

On Saturday, a gunman stormed into a Pittsburgh temple and killed 11 people.

“My first reaction was ‘oh my God it actually happened,’” said Temple Israel Rabbi Michael Panitz.

Panitz says he first heard during his service.

“The Sabbath is a day of peace,” Panitz added.  “The synagogue is a house of peace.  For bloodshed and murder to violate the peace, which is the sabbath is an obscene outrage.”

Most synagogues around the area have off duty police officers as security, though there will be talks about beefing it up.  Last week, the staff at Ohef Sholom held an active shooter drill.

“The sad thing about this is that it is not at all surprising that it happened,” Rueben said.  “We’ve all known that it was going to happen sometime and it could be any of us.”

The hope is that this tragedy will bring people together to prevent something like this from happening again.

“The incitement from hateful speech to hateful deeds exists on the continuum and we need to try to roll that back,” Panitz said.

“I know because it is the way of our people that we come out of this stronger,” Rueben added.  “It is a painful time for us, but it really does help to know that the greater community supports us.”

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