JERSEY CITY, NJ – (VINnews By Abe Friedman) It was the call that no one wants to get and it came on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 10th.
An active shooter situation was taking place at a kosher supermarket, the barrage of gunfire turning the Greenville section of Jersey City into a veritable war zone. There was a synagogue in the same building and several dozen children were in the small school located just upstairs from the grocery. The potential for bloodshed was both horrific and unthinkable.
While we mourn the tragic loss of life that took place in Jersey City, we appreciate that even amidst unthinkable darkness, numerous rays of light emerged.
There is no doubt that the quick action taken by members of the Jersey City Police Department saved lives, keeping the murderous rampage confined to the store alone and preventing it from spreading to the adjacent synagogue and school where precious young lives were in jeopardy.
Dozens of law enforcement agencies raced to the scene even as shots continued to ring out, and when the scene was finally secured several hours later and the investigation began, we witnessed time and time again the incredible sensitivity displayed for the victims and their loved ones.
Throughout the entire process, those in charge worked closely with Misaskim and Chesed Shel Emes, allowing them to clean up the scene and be on hand at the medical examiner’s office, expediting the entire process so that burial could take place as quickly as possible.
We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the unsung heroes who put their lives on the line to ensure our safety on a daily basis and to the Hudson County Medical Examiner’s Office for being extremely respectful of Jewish law while doing its job during this difficult time.
The Jewish community in Jersey City and beyond was touched by the many high ranking officials who made personal visits to the scene, including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito, New Jersey Homeland Security Director Jared Maples, New Jersey State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan and FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory Ehrie of the Newark field office.
All were personally involved in ensuring that everything proceeded smoothly and in accordance with Jewish law, bringing tremendous comfort to the victim’s families and the community during the devastation.
Among the numerous elected officials who came to offer solace to the mourners as they sat shiva for their loved ones were Governor Murphy and Attorney General Grewal. Their visits were extremely meaningful to the family members, conveying through their words and their presence that leaders of government and law enforcement shared in their grief.
Both Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Jersey City Police Chief Mike Kelly went above and beyond the call of duty as did many within the Jewish community who worked tirelessly as the crisis unfolded to allay mounting fears and to coordinate the many intricate and sensitive details of the investigation and the burials.
Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and community leaders Chesky Deutsch and Moshe Schwartz stepped up to advocate on behalf of the local Jewish community and Rabbi Moshe Schapiro of Chabad Lubavitch of Hoboken also provided invaluable assistance, both as tragedy struck and in the days that followed.
It is also important to recognize the many Jersey City residents who stepped up on behalf of their Jewish neighbors, offering their support and assistance in a variety ways, their actions a clear demonstration that brotherhood and friendship extend to all who call Greenville home.
Living as we do in a time and place where mass shootings happen far too often, we have seen that it typically takes days, if not weeks, for scenes to be investigated and for answers to emerge.
The fact that victims of the attack were laid to rest in less than 36 hours comes as no accident – it is a direct result of years of advocacy and countless hours spent by community leaders building bridges with government officials and law enforcement at all levels. Governor Murphy’s presence at the shooting scene sent a clear message that Jersey City was a high priority, and that full cooperation was expected statewide to expedite matters in order to lessen the pain and suffering of those whose lives were shattered by the attack.
The Jewish community salutes the many heroes who responded to the call on December 10th and beyond and will keep them in our hearts and in our prayers. We are eternally grateful to the many individuals and agencies whose leadership conveyed a message of unity and compassion that will carry us through the difficult, days, weeks and months ahead.
Abe Friedman is a community leader and a law enforcement chaplain.