BELLMORE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A rabbi who became a hero during the horrific attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh this weekend has a close connection to Long Island.
Friends and former colleagues are reaching out to Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers, reports CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
“He came to every shiva call, he came to everyone’s house because we all lived so close together in Massapequa,” said Barbara Cohen of Congregation Beth Ohr.
In an interview with CBS This Morning on Monday, Myers said he was coping “badly” with the trauma of a gunman killing 11 people in his Tree of Life Synagogue.
“He bar mitzvah-ed both my children,” said Glenn Ring. “People have asked me how he is doing… I say physically he is OK, but mentally I don’t know if he is every going to be the same.”
In recounting his view of what happened Saturday, Myers said he regrets not being able to help more people.
“I could only save some,” said Myers. “The people in the back of the sanctuary, I could not save. … I carry that regret with me and will for the rest of my life.”
For 18 years Myers served as cantor of Massapequa’s congregation Beth-El and president of its Hebrew school. Shortly after he left for Pittsburgh, his congregation merged with Bellmore’s to create Beth Ohr.
“In this congregation, our congregation, a whole slew of people just feel very close to Rabbi Myers,” said Rabbi Dahlia Bernstein.
“This is the community he came from, it’s very special,” said Shane Sarver, a Pittsburgh resident visiting Long Island who was in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood with Lisa Upton during the shooting.
They cannot comprehend how the killing came to happen, she said. “Squirrel Hill being such a lovely, peaceful diverse area.”
When asked about forgiving the shooter, accused gunman Robert Bowers, Myers told CTM he would struggle with that decision.
“I just don’t know,” said Myers. “The wounds are too open to answer that. I have to really think about that. Can you really forgive everybody for all evil is one of those big theological questions and right now I can’t answer it.”
Many instead want to focus on the victims.
“What can be done in their memory that might not achieve forgiveness for the perpetrator of the crime, but can achieve a sense of solidarity?” said Rabbi Jeremy Fineberg of Temple Beth Ohr.