State College, Pa- Occasionally Rabbi Nosson Meretsky, the director of Chabad at Penn State, will spend time with family at a synagogue in Pittsburgh….that happened to be blocks down the road from the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
“He heard all these sirens going by, these emergency vehicles… ambulances…. the first thought he had was: It must be a terrorist attack… a shooting or something. But then he was thinking, I’m not in Israel… I’m in America, in Pittsburgh….. These things don’t happen. He found out soon afterwords what had actually happened,” Meretsky said.
He described what an Israeli friend saw in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood Saturday morning…There was an active shooter at the tree of life synagogue…just blocks away.
“They announced that the synagogue we were in was on lockdown…the congregation I was there with all stopped and said Chapter 20 in Psalms,” Meretsky said.
A prayer of sanctuary from violence. The shooting happened during the Shabbat , a Jewish day of rest, when all other worries are supposed to be forgotten
“It’s an island in time…to have this happen on Shabbat…. and have that peace and tranquility shattered…. I mean these people were having a baby naming in the synagogue…. celebrating new life coming into the world…. and had that horrifically shattered,” Rabbi Meretsky said.
Inside Meretsky’s synagogue there was uncertainty.
He told WTAJ, “We had not idea what was going on… If he was going to try and escape and go to a different synagogue”
Still Meretsky continued praying…. and by the end of their service discovered the gunman surrendered.
Afterword, he only sees one way of moving forward saying:
“We counter with light, here is an extreme case of hate… and darkness, but the Jewish response has always been one of light and to add light.”
Light that looks to burn stronger than any hate this world can produce.