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Longtime Pittsburgh Resident Remembers Fellow Congregants Killed In Synagogue Shooting

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now we're going to speak with a member of the congregation Dor Hadash, which worships in the building that was attacked. Pam Weiss is with us now in our studios in Pittsburgh.

Pam Weiss, thank you so much for speaking with us at such a difficult time.

PAM WEISS: Thank you.

MARTIN: And we know that you just came from a service.

WEISS: Yes.

MARTIN: Must have taken a lot of strength just to get here, so I want to thank you for that.

WEISS: Thank you.

MARTIN: I know you've worshipped as a part of this congregation for many, many years as I understand it.

WEISS: Yes, 37 years.

MARTIN: What drew you to it?

WEISS: It's a congregation that is called reconstructionist. So it's a sect of Judaism that is very open to new ideas as well as maintaining tradition. It also has a lot of people from the - that are professionals, that are academics and are also in the helping profession, and that suited us very well. It also is very welcoming of people who are very knowledgeable and not very knowledgeable. And my husband and I not being very knowledgeable, it was also very welcoming of us.

MARTIN: And you happened not to be at services yesterday, as I understand it.

WEISS: Right. It was actually not a service. It was a meeting in the rabbi study that was led by Dan Leger - is a Torah study group. Many people would be there. But he arrived. He's now in critical condition in the hospital. And Jerry Rabinowitz also arrived early. He has died in the shooting. Everybody else came later. There was actually one other man, Marty Gaynor (ph), who came and had a moment where he could get - escape to the basement. But, otherwise, other people were on their way, so the men who died had come earlier, as they always do because they are the heart of the strength and core of the congregation.

MARTIN: What are you drawing upon to help you process this, to live with this?

WEISS: People read poetry at a gathering today. I thought that was very useful. Last night, there was a vigil that we attended. My husband and I attended and my son with his friend. So being around people who are going through the same thing, then just having come from a gathering that included a service of our congregation and getting - everybody was saying hugs really matter at this time. And then people we know are constantly sending us texts and emails, and that also helps - to know that it's sort of keeping the ball in the air. Otherwise, in the dead time, then you don't know what to do with yourself.

MARTIN: I'm just appreciative that you were able to find the strength to come over here and speak with us, and I'm just happy to have a chance to look at you and tell you in person how sorry I am and how much the people all over the country, all over the world, all of my colleagues are grieving with you. And...

WEISS: Well, thank you.

MARTIN: That's all I can say. There really are no words. And I just wanted to say thank you and just ask if there's anything else that you would like to say.

WEISS: This is the kind of place we have that everybody does what they can. Some people do a little, some people do a lot, but everybody does anything - everything. And the men - Dan Leger, who is in the hospital, and Jerry Rabinowitz, who was killed - were two core members of our community. I should not say were about Dan because he's still alive, and I hope he will make it. Jerry was so, so essential. It's hard to imagine continuing without him. And Dan is very essential - great spiritual leader, great man. So we'll see how things come and go in the next few days.

MARTIN: Do you think you can go back to worship there?

WEISS: For sure. We're not allowed to go back now, of course. And I think we can't go back for a week. But yes. I'm sure it will be a very emotional first meeting there, but there's no doubt we will go.

MARTIN: That's Pam Weiss. She is a member of congregation Dor Hadash, which worships in the building that was attacked yesterday, and she was kind enough to join us here at the studios of WESA in Pittsburgh.

Pam Weiss, my condolences and my admiration for you. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

WEISS: Thank you from me and from the congregation Dor Hadash. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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