PITTSBURGH – After a devastating shooting that took the lives of 11 people, the tight-knit community of Squirrel Hill, a neighborhood near downtown Pittsburgh, is coming together to process the senseless act of violence that took place Oct. 27. They are joined by supporters in Pennsylvania and all over the world in mourning.
It is perhaps a moment that seemed so simple. The rabbi of the Tree of Life Synagogue walking the Torah out of a synagogue. But, for anyone who knows anything about Judaism, the Torah is the sacred scroll at the heart of the Jewish faith. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers held his synagogue's most precious scroll Monday afternoon to remove it from the Tree of Life.
"It was the book of our people. The word from God. They were all safe," Myers said.
Myers called the synagogue a crime scene as police and investigators comb through the temple looking for evidence in what is reportedly the deadliest attack against the Jewish faith in U.S. history.
"One act of anti-Semitism is one too many. One act of hatred against any other human being is one act too many," Myers said.
When bullets rang from a lone gunman's AR-15 and three handguns, 11 innocent people answered with their lives.
The pain was felt all over the world as white crosses lay at the synagogue's floor -- two of them for two brothers whom Squirrel Hill native and congregation member Alan Dunn knew well.
"They were both special needs and David was very shy. He did not speak much. Cecil on the other hand was very extroverted. He was just like a big teddy bear," Dunn said.
Dunn also knew the oldest victim, 97-year-old Rose Mallinger. He recalled that she said she was dedicated to her faith.
"We've been emotionally and physically shaken the entire weekend since it happened," Dunn said.
However, in a town whereMr. Rogers lived, these folks say -- as the iconic children's public television show host said, "Look for the helpers."
"When you're not a first responder, you want to be able to still do something," said Pittsburgh resident Kelly Lynch, who spent her lunch break heading to PPG Paints Arena to give blood for the survivors of the shooting.
"It's the Pittsburgh Stronger Than Hate Blood Drive and the people who have showed up today have demonstrated that," said Kristen Lane, an organizer with Vitalant, a nonprofit that collects blood from donors.
Lane said the Penguins had offered their arena to her company to help. The blood drive went until 3 p.m., but Lane said the company is always accepting.
Over in Squirrel Hill, Adil Berkoglu, a chef at a Turkish restaurant on Forbes, is trying to find normalcy. He said the neighborhood is close-knit.
"We like each other. We joke and we talk every time," Berkoglu said.
Saturday's incident had him shaken.
"We're scared to be honest ... because we never heard about this kind of stuff," Berkoglu said.
Hundreds of flowers were left outside entryways to the Tree of Life Synagogue.
"We will rebuild and will overcome struggle because we're the tree of life," Myers said.
Ways you can help:
Checks or money orders can be sent to:
Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
C/O “Victims of Terror Fund”
234 McKee Place
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. 100 percent of the donations go directly to help. Click here to donate.
A certified GoFundMe page was set up for the victims of the shooting. Click here to donate.
The American Red Cross is also assisting victims in the coming weeks. Click here for more information.