ATLANTA - The deadly attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath have many on edge in Atlanta.
Investigators were still gathering the details Saturday evening in the deadly shooting which took place just hours earlier. Officials said 11 people were killed and six more were injured at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Police said a gunman opened fire during a baby-naming ceremony. Authorities have since taken a 46-year-old man into custody in connection to that shooting.
Violence against the Jewish community is an unfortunate part of Atlanta’s history. Earlier this month, Atlanta quietly marked the 60th anniversary of a hate crime against a Jewish congregation.
The Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple located along Peachtree Street was bombed during the early morning hours of Oct. 12, 1958. Initially, investigators believed the bombing was the work of an extortionist, but the case soon focused on a number of fringe groups which specifically targeted the Reform Jewish congregation. Despite a confession and two trials, no one to this day has been convicted of the crime.
The Temple released a statement Saturday through their Facebook page which reads in part:
“We are deeply saddened by the news this morning of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It is a sad day for Jews around the world this Shabbat and our hearts and prayers are with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh. This act was directed at the soul of the entire Jewish community. The Temple shares in the grief resulting from this and every senseless act of violence. May the memory of all of the worshippers and police officers killed in this tragedy be for an eternal blessing.”
The Temple said they have stepped up with extra security and are taking precautionary measures as well as re-evaluating their current day-to-day security plan. They also said they are trying to come to terms with discussing such violence with the next generation.
Police are also stepping up patrols around DeKalb County’s Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, one of the largest in the South. Saturday, the faithful were out walking to gather, pray, and worship, as they do every Sabbath. Police officers were visible in the area despite DeKalb County authorities saying there were no specific threats.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a statement following the attack. It reads:
“We are deeply saddened by the news of another senseless mass shooting perpetrated in the name of hate. We stand with the people of Pittsburgh and with our Jewish brothers and sisters throughout our nation, and denounce hatred and anti-Semitism, in all forms.
“We also pray for the wounded first responders and remain grateful for their selfless acts of bravery. The Atlanta Police Department is on heightened alert and patrol units have been instructed to closely monitor activity around synagogues throughout the city.
“As a city and a nation, we are better and stronger than hate. We will continue to work towards fostering a deeper understanding and abiding respect for one another.”
Metro Atlanta has about 121,000 who identify with the Jewish faith as of 2016 according to the U.S. Census.