Milwaukee's Jewish community mourns, calls for peace after Pittsburgh massacre

Posted at 6:51 PM, Oct 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-29 08:58:13-04

At Chadab UWM a handful of students and community members come together to make sense of the recent tragedy in Pittsburgh and speak with directors Dobie Thaler and Rabbi Yechezkel Thaler.

Dobie speaks to the group using Facetime, she's currently in Pittsburgh celebrating her younger sister's Bat Mitzvah. She vividly recalls hearing about the synagogue shooting from a neighbor. 

"She says the mailman, he thinks there's a shooting. He thinks men are dead. We said that's not possible. We didn't believe her," said Dobie Thaler. 

Thaler says she was only a few blocks away when the anti-Semite gunned down 11 innocent people at a synagogue. Rabbi Thaler says at least one of the victims was a Holocaust survivor and they were celebrating a naming ceremony for a baby. He reminds the group that this meeting is a special space. 

"We want to have a space to feel free to express our grief, our pain, and then try to look forward and say how can we grow from this," said Rabbi Thaler. 

Thaler tells the group that some people were too afraid to attend her sister's Bat Mitzvah later that evening because of the shoot. But she says they carried on the celebration and said a prayer for the lives lost. Thaler tells the group to take action, by going to synagogue or saying prayers, but don't sit in fear. 

"Hate is strong and we need to fight hate with light," said Thaler. 

Community members like Carole Tullos and Bernardo Mayorga say this hate will not define them. But say a time for change has already past, it's up to everyone to act now and voluntarily respect each other, regardless of faith or tradition. 

In Fox Point, Congregation Shalom has increased its security presence, but Rabbi Noah Chertkoff says their doors are still open and they are not afraid. 

"It's important to come together and be able to express their sadness at what has happened. But also their resilience at whatever challenges might come," said Rabbi Chertkoff. 

In Wauwatosa, congregants at the City of Light Church listen to the city of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention Director Reggie Moore speak about the peaceful way to end gun violence. 

"Faith organizations are under attack and so it's really really critical, you know to have these conversations," said Moore. 

After hearing Moore's talk members agree that peace and love is the only way to deal with tragic events like the Pittsburgh shooting. Laria Brent says mental health is an important topic that society needs to address head-on in creative ways.  Sunny Cha says her main job is outreach and welcoming new members into the church. Cha says being the first line of defense, in a sense, doesn't scare her because God teaches everyone to enter every situation with love. 

Another member, Fred Pierce says it's important to remember to feel for everyone. 

"My heart goes out to, of course, the people who dealt with the tragedy, who lost someone. But also, my heart goes out to that person, because there's a series of things that have to happen in a person's life to have to do something like that," said Pierce.   

All religious members say their doors are open and everyone is welcome.