Alle-Kiski groups set to support region’s Jewish community

November 20, 2018

Religious and community leaders across the Alle-Kiski Valley and Southwestern Pennsylvania are waiting to see how they can provide the most help to the grieving Jewish community following a weekend shooting that left 11 people dead and six others wounded at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

Messages of support could be seen Monday across the greater Pittsburgh area from churches and schools to restaurants and business parks.

The Rev. Nick Chybrzynski, pastor the Generations House of Worship in Brackenridge, said he and his congregation are waiting to hear from the Jewish community before they jump to do any fundraising or outreach.

He said he did have one family who knew one of the victims, and he was doing his best to make sure that family is supported.

“That really breaks our heart,” Chybrzynski said.

He said he felt the fear of safety among his congregation on Sunday, but doesn’t want it to keep the community from worshiping.

“Tragedy tries to keep us from loving each other,” he said. “There was a lot of concern in the voices of people about what do we do to make sure our people are safe.”

The Rev. Lisa Lyon, president of the Leechburg Ministerial Association, said she and her husband, the Rev. Gary Lyon, were just a mile away from the shooting scene when they learned what had happened. They were doing continuing education courses at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

“It brings it home to have been in Pittsburgh and so close to where it was happening,” she said. “It’s very upsetting to know this kind of hatred (exists); that there’s that much antisemitism in our local area.”

The Rev. David Morse, president of the Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium, said its member churches have been holding special prayers and messages of solidarity for the Jewish community.

The Monroeville Library hosted an event Monday with a panel of faith leaders to discuss the mass shooting.

“We are hoping that one of the things that will be an outcome of that is everyone who is there will go back into their homes and communities and even their places of worship and encourage further discussion,” Morse said.

The Penn State New Kensington campus was in mourning Monday. School officials said several of their students are either from the Squirrel Hill area or have attended Tree of Life Congregation synagogue.

Chancellor Kevin Snider said houses of worship and schools share similar goals and offerings in bringing the community together to foster discussion and learning.

“To have that shattered by someone who is clearly disturbed and really delivering a message of hate -- it just hits everybody,” Snider said.

Snider said the school offered an open session to discuss the shooting at noon Monday and the university’s president would do a live stream to discuss it on Monday night.

A moment of silence will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday to honor the victims. The school is also directing students to counselors if they need it.

“I think all of us have this feeling of dismay and anger and sadness that we have to think about these things,” Snider said. “It’s always on all of our minds -- this just brings it home.”

Despite the range of emotions the campus is feeling in the aftermath of the attack, Snider said the sense of togetherness has never been stronger.

“I think it really speaks to Pittsburgh and the area that something that happened in Pittsburgh really has touched people that are living in New Kensington and the A-K Valley as well,” he said. “This is one of the few areas I’ve been that has such tight connections and a closeness that you don’t find in other areas.”

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