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Lighting a candle

Community supports local synagogue in wake of Pittsburgh shooting

November 2, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Shortly after a shooter left 11 people dead and six others wounded at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the Jewish temple here received messages of thoughts and prayers.

On Saturday morning, Oct. 27, police say 46-year-old Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh armed with a semi-automatic rifle and three pistols. He allegedly opened fire in a 20-minute attack and spouted off anti-Semitic rhetoric. Authorities there classified the act as a hate crime toward Jews.

Immediately after the Pittsburgh incident, the Lake Placid Synagogue received a handful of emails and phone messages, President Sue Semegram said in a phone interview Tuesday, Oct. 30.

Article Photos

Lake Placid Synagogue
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

"We got 10 emails since then, and there are a few phone messages I need to return as well," she said. "People were saying things like, 'We're not Jews. We're Christians, but we live in Lake Placid, and we're giving you a virtual hug.' In my eight years I've been president, something like that has never happened. It was amazing to see people reaching out in support."

The Rev. John Yonkovig, the Catholic pastor of St. Agnes church in Lake Placid and St. Brendan's in Keene, wrote a letter to the editor for this week's News showing solidarity with the Jewish congregations in Pittsburgh and Lake Placid.

"Anti-Jewish bigotry, and all religious and ethnic bigotry, is morally wrong - it is a terrible sin," Yonkovig wrote. "There is a growing tide of hostile words in our country that has incited actions undermining the safety of people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities. The massacre in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue is not the first act of terror provoked against a minority group in our country by antagonistic words."

The Lake Placid Synagogue, which has about 50 members, has been trying to boost its community outreach, Semegram said, and it was unfortunately prompted by a tragedy.

"Sometimes for the wrong reasons things fall in your lap," she said.

Semegram said the Pittsburgh shooting doesn't affect just that Pennsylvania neighborhood or just the Jewish community, but the country as a whole.

"There have been so many shootings in religious settings," she said, "and you think, 'It could never happen to us.'"

The Lake Placid Synagogue will host a special shabbat service at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9 in memory of those lost in the Pittsburgh shooting. The service also falls on the anniversary of Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), which is when German Nazis vandalized Jewish business and temples and murdered nearly 100 Jews. It's often viewed as the start of the Holocaust.

"It's a scary time, but it's also a time where we come together."



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