Local community responds to synagogue shooting

Published: Oct. 29, 2018 at 5:32 PM EDT
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The tragedy has rocked Jewish communities in Central and Southwest Virginia, and congregations in Roanoke have responded.

Rabbi Kathy Cohen of Temple Emanuel read the Kaddish, a Jewish prayer recited for the dead. For her, the shooting hits home.

"This was one of my home synagogues," she said. "I grew up in Pittsburgh. My parents were married at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Many of my cousins did and still belong to that synagogue."

But she says the Roanoke community has shown its support.

"A very beautiful thing started to happen," she said. "Whether by text or by email or by phones calls, people from all over Roanoke started to get in touch with me to express their sympathy to ask if I needed anything."

Roanoke's Mayor is among them.

Mayor Sherman Lea said, "I want to let our local Jewish communities know that the city mourns with them."

Saturday's tragedy in Pittsburgh has prompted leaders of Roanoke's Jewish congregations to review their security policies.

"The thought runs through your mind, 'are we safe? What are we doing, and are our security systems good enough?,'" said Rabbi Jama Purser of Temple Beth Israel.

Temple Emanuel plans to invite security experts to come walk around the building. In the meantime, Rabbi Cohen's thoughts are with the place she once knew so well.

"Those images come back to me as a place of joy and life and happiness, and now it's mixed with death," she said.

The temples will hold a service of mourning, solidarity and hope

at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Temple Emanuel. Lea plans to be there. All are welcome.