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A Former Congregant Reflects On Synagogue Shooting In Pittsburgh

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And we are continuing to learn more about the deadly shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh this morning. The attack took place at the Tree of Life Congregation, where Shabbat morning services were being held. Eleven people were killed, and six others were injured. Adam Hertzman was a member of the congregation. He's now the director of marketing with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. He's with us on the line now Mr. Hertzman, words - I do not have words to express my grief at your loss. I'm so very sorry.

ADAM HERTZMAN: Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.

MARTIN: Can you tell us any more about how you found out about the shooting?

HERTZMAN: Well, I found out about it pretty much how everybody else did - through the news, really.

MARTIN: Do you know if you know of anyone who was hurt?

HERTZMAN: I don't. Unfortunately, at this time, as far as I know, they still have not been able to notify the families of those who've died. And so, so far, nobody knows the identities.

MARTIN: Would you tell us about the congregation? What kind of synagogue was it? What stands out from your time there?

HERTZMAN: Tree of Life was a combination of two synagogues in Pittsburgh that emerged. It's a conservative synagogue. It's a really lovely, welcoming place. It's in the heart of Squirrel Hill, which is a central part of the Jewish community, a lot of the population of Jewish Pittsburgh. And Squirrel Hill is just a wonderful, warm, welcoming place.

MARTIN: And I wanted to ask you about this. This has to just strike at your core. And forgive me, this news is so fresh, you probably even haven't had time to process it. But I just wonder, what's going through your mind at a time like this? I mean, did you - does this strike it your sense of safety as an American, as an American Jew? I just - I'm just wondering how you are processing this.

HERTZMAN: Really, I'm as shocked as anybody in this community. You know, the truth is that we're lucky in Pittsburgh, that generally the Pittsburgh Jewish community is one of the safest Jewish communities in the United States. We've had a community security director for a couple of years who's really been improving security at the synagogues and Jewish agencies. And so this comes as even more of a shock to me and to everybody here.

MARTIN: How do you think you'll process this in the next couple of days?

HERTZMAN: It's hard to tell. We are having a community gathering tomorrow at 5:00 p.m that's really - all of the synagogues in Pittsburgh are participating. And I think, in my mind, it's a time to come together, join together as a community. I feel like Jewish Pittsburgh is a family, and so this attack really does feel like a an attack on my own family.

MARTIN: And finally, how can others in the community support you? I'm sure there are many grieving with you who are not Jewish. What can they do to support you at this time?

HERTZMAN: We've had an amazing outpouring of support, both from the Jewish community and the non-Jewish community all over Pittsburgh. Even now, you know, just a couple hours after this terrible incident, local businesses came out with food for our grief center. And I've gotten texts and emails from churches. I think that, you know, the best thing to do is to come together and help the community heal. If people want to give, we're going to open after Shabbat closes, a fund for victims of terror. And they can certainly contribute to that.

MARTIN: OK. We have to leave it there for now. Mr. Hertzman, thank you so very much for speaking with us. It's such a sensitive time. I thank you so very much.

HERTZMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.