Squirrel Hill's Tight-Knit Community Rocked By Synagogue Massacre
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We are bringing the program to you today from Pittsburgh from member station WESA. As you've surely heard by now, a synagogue here was the target of a mass shooting yesterday. Eleven people were killed. Throughout the program, we will be hearing from members of the community here and other people who have been touched by this tragedy. But I'm joined now by NPR's Sarah McCammon, who was in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood today close to the Tree of Life synagogue.
Sarah, thanks so much for doing that.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Yeah. Hi.
MARTIN: And so you went out and around the city, and you were talking to people today. Where did you go, and what did they tell you?
MCCAMMON: Well, I was really just in the neighborhood around the synagogue - which, as we've mentioned on other programs, is just a lovely older neighborhood - big, beautiful, stately homes. And I talked to some of the people who were coming to pay their respects to the dead, leaving flowers behind, memorials - that kind of thing. I met a man named Yitzhak Kadosh (ph). He was born in Israel, has lived in the U.S. for close to 30 years and had some close ties to the synagogue, and he was deeply distressed.
YITZHAK KADOSH: And I know the people personally. I know the people physically. I mean, I worship with them many years ago. No one should be dying because you want to go to a synagogue. I don't get it. I mean, I still don't get it.
MARTIN: And I heard you ran into an aunt who was visiting with her niece, and they also had a personal connection to the area.
MCCAMMON: That's right. I talked to Lisa Fleisher Jackson (ph) and her niece, Elly Fleisher (ph), who's 16. Lisa has a lot of friends and family and has for many years around the neighborhood of the synagogue. And she spent a lot of time there as a child.
LISA FLEISHER JACKSON: I don't even know what to think. I mean, I - this is in my grandmother's backyard. My grandmother's no longer with us. But, I mean, I spent a lot of time in the synagogue. This is where I went. This is where my family belongs. I'm just - I'm horrified with what happened, and I hope that we could make some changes. It's not just an attack on the Jewish people, but it's an attack on everybody in this community. And we're strong, and we're going to make it through.
MCCAMMON: And, as I said, she was with her niece who's 16, Elly. They both said, you know, this is many generations of this family have ties to this neighborhood. They brought a bouquet of flowers to lay down at one of the memorials.
ELLY FLEISHER: Well, I went to Hebrew school at Tree of Life, so I know a lot of people there. And I feel like it's only right to show up and give support to the families that were affected by this.
MARTIN: So what do they make of all this and the fact that this has been called a hate crime?
MCCAMMON: Well, I just heard so much sadness, so much shock as you always hear in these situations. And Lisa, the aunt - she mentioned President Trump's rhetoric. She feels that he's partly responsible for this sort of heated political climate in the country and rising anti-Semitism that's been reported. She also expressed a lot of frustration with violence and with the nation's gun laws.
FLEISHER JACKSON: I think it's not about - we definitely need to have gun laws, but we definitely don't need to have, you know, security guards at our schools, at our temples, at our churches.
ELLY: We shouldn't have to. I mean, somewhere where you're supposed to go - like, everyone's saying how - you know, thoughts and prayers out to this. But where we go to pray, it's not even safe. So how are we supposed to do that? That's the main question I think here right now.
MARTIN: Well, Sarah, you've also been getting reaction from other places in the city today, and so we're going to hear more from you later in the program. So thanks so much.
MCCAMMON: Yeah. Thanks. Talk soon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.