Metro Jewish community reacts to shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Another shooting targeting Jewish people has communities around the country on edge.

A man with a gun stormed into a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Saturday morning, shooting, and killing 11 people.

FOX4 spoke with members of the metro Jewish community about the tragedy and why Sunday's 25th anniversary of the founding of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education out in Overland Park is more important than ever.

Steve Cole works with the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, whose mission is to educate about the Holocaust and help fight bigotry.

“My parents are Holocaust survivors, and so the first thing that came to my mind was, oh my god, my parents have to hear and see yet another incident,” Jackie Hermanson, a member of the Jewish community said.

For members of the Jewish community, especially those whose parents were survivors of the Holocaust, the news of yet another hate crime against Jewish people is frightening.

“It rang up the memories of the stories that my parents told me about what happened in their community between 1933 and 1938 as the rise of the Nazis and the anti-semitism escalated in Germany,” Cole said.

“They`re in their nineties, but it still really rings true, and scares them every time they hear something like this happens,” Hermanson added.

Robert Bowers, 46,  is identified as the suspect who stormed into the Tree Of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on the Jewish sabbath.

Bowers is believed to have made anti-semitic comments during the shooting, and targeted Jews on social media.

“Very alarming, this is a country that represents itself as a melting pot, has a tremendous amount of diversity in it, and certainly bigotry against one group, is ready to be bigotry against any other group,” Cole said.

This all hits very close to home for the Kansas City metro community.

It's a heartbreaking reminder of the shootings at the Jewish Community Campus and Village Shalom four and a half years ago.

“It`s sickening, and it`s sad that as a Jew, when I go to the synagogue, I have to first pass through a security guard before I can even get into the synagogue, on one hand it`s a bit of comfort that there`s someone there, on the other hand, it`s a very sad commentary about what has happened in our world,” Hermanson added.

“In my lifetime, we have gone from a period where the unspeakable didn't occur, the unmentionable didn`t occur, people who have these kind of extreme views largely kept them to themselves, and of late, we've found they have an audience, or an environment, in which they can speak, and our politicians and leaders don`t necessarily strongly object,” said Cole.

“Ultimately, it`s about respecting and understanding diversity, and that we all come from different places, yet we`re all Americans, and we`re all citizens of this country, and we all have equal opportunities to be respected in that way,” Hermanson added.

“It absolutely struck home, and I would imagine that older people, for whom the Holocaust is in their memory, this really scares them a lot,” Cole said. “Obviously in light of what happened today, we have still plenty of work to do, to get rid of the bigotry and intolerance in our society,."

Sunday is the 25th anniversary of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education.

There will be a celebration of the past 25 years of accomplishments, and they will lay the foundation for the continued work of the organization.

FOX4 is told there will be extra security for the event.



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