Local Jewish Community Reacts to Synagogue Shooting

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The Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh has shaken the Jewish community across the country, including the Chippewa Valley.

More than 10 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday. As the incident brings many issues to the spotlight, leaders in the local Jewish community are speaking out.

An active part of the congregation at Temple Sholom in Eau Claire since 1966, Mort Sipress says the recent mass shooting at a Pittsburgh Synagogue is the worst tragedy against the Jewish population in U.S. history.

The Chippewa Valley is home to about 40 Jewish households. As acts of Anti-Semitism increase, Sipress says all people are at risk. 

“We’ve had the unfortunate need to explain this kind of thing for many generations…the Holocaust and World War II is as much evidence that you would need that there are very violent, violent people out there,” he said.

Sipress says it’s unfortunate something like this can happen in 2018.

“Not because you grow complacent but because you feel that it’s not going to happen to this kind of an extent in the United States,” he said.

Some credit the increase of Anti- Semitism to lack of education. 

“It’s important to me that we reach out as much as we can to our community, other churches, different people just to educate them. I think the biggest problem is lack of education and ignorance,” said Danielle Pilkin, President at Temple Sholom.

The fatal shooting has sparked a conversation about security at houses of worship.

 “As a community we need to step up when it comes to the idea of security in our building,” said Pilkin.
In recent days, President Trump has weighed in on the issue. 

“If they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately,” President Trump told reporters the following day when asked about the shooting.

Sipress says the idea is troubling to him. 

“Most of us would not welcome the presence of people with firearms in a house of worship,” he said.
He slates it as calling for a violent response to violence, adding that when it comes to hatred, everyone is at risk.

“What happened in Pittsburgh has to be a lesson to keep us alert, not just Jewish people alert but all be alert to what hate can produce,” he said.

Pilken says she was shocked when she first heard the news of the shooting and immediately began contacting others in the community, discussing ways to keep her congregation safe.

“It was a wake up call…thinking okay if something can happen like that there then what are we doing here to take the steps to make sure it never happens here,” she said. 
 

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