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NY Local Communities Gather Following Pittsburgh Shooting

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The man accused in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre appeared briefly in federal court in a wheelchair and handcuffs Monday to face charges he killed 11 people in what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. Following the Saturday shooting, a number of services are scheduled in our region.

Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady will hold a service of remembrance, solidarity and peace tonight at 7. Matt Cutler is the congregation’s rabbi.

“Racism and bigotry and anti-Semitism will not be tolerated,” Rabbi Cutler says.

He says his temple is opening its doors to the Schenectady Clergy Against Hate congregations in a spirit of unity and healing.

“My colleagues have come together with us to show solidarity and support, not only to give an opportunity for our Jewish community to grieve, but to also give opportunity for the extended community to come to together and say this type of behavior is not tolerated nor is it a part of our cultural fabric of being and, therefore, we stand together to say, to stand up to this type of hatred and awfulness and murderous rampage,” Rabbi Cutler says.

Also at 7 tonight is a community gathering in Rockland County to remember the Pittsburgh victims. It’s at the Jewish Community Campus in West Nyack, where state Senator David Carlucci will deliver comments.

“I just heard an outpouring of support from the community wanting to gather and just say in one collective voice that we’re standing united against hate. And that’s what we’re going to be doing tonight,” says Carlucci. “And I think we’re going to have a very large crowd because people are just extremely upset about how the rhetoric and the hate have just really boiled into violence.”

Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day has ordered all county flags to be lowered to half-staff out of respect for the victims. Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer did the same. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset Sunday in honor of the victims in both Pittsburgh and at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. Cuomo addressed the shootings that are being investigated as hate crimes. He spoke about the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“And anyone who seeks to divide, anyone who seeks to separate, anyone who tries to segregate, who is worthy and who is unworthy, that is not an American as we have defined it in this nation,” Cuomo said.

Again, Carlucci, a Democrat whose 38th District includes most of Rockland and a piece of Westchester.

“And it just, it boils my blood when I see these all too frequent mass shootings and say, when are we finally going to learn our lesson that we need commonsense gun control in New York state and across the nation,” Carlucci says.

Authorities have said the alleged gunmen entered the Pittsburgh synagogue with an assault-style rifle along with handguns. Rabbi Cutler.

“And, I will tell you, we are cautious, we do take our precautions, and we are going to revisit our security precautions, and, yes, we will probably be making some changes. But we will not let this define us or define what we are,” says Rabbi Cutler. “In fact, Saturday night, we had a group of teenagers that were scheduled to sleep in the synagogue. And what we found is after we contacted their parents, we had more kids show up than originally planned because children’s attitudes were, this is not going to alter what we do and who we are. We’re going to be proud of our Jewish identity.”

He says during the High Holy Days, there is extra security. Currently, Rabbi Cutler says there are greeters and ushers and security cameras. As for what could change, he says that is yet to be determined. A number of services took place over the weekend and, along with the two mentioned here, many other events are scheduled.

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