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U.S. Jewish Leaders Tour Squirrel Hill, Tree Of Life Synagogue

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Jewish faith leaders came from around the country to see for themselves the community they'd heard so much about, leaving the Jewish Community Center on Tuesday to take a bus tour of the Squirrel Hill, and lend solidarity and support to those still in grief.

"Jews are not very populous, and when things happen, it's really a part of our extended family, and when something happens to your family, you show up," said Jacob Solomon, of the Jewish Federation of Miami.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

They also learned how to prepare for the eventuality of something terrible happening in their own community.

"To show my support and care and love, but also to learn how a community, that was so important in building community, responds to crisis," said Eric Robbins, of Atlanta, Georgia.


To that end, the assembled got a private presentation from FBI agents who spoke of the importance of preparation, including a community-wide security plan, establishing the day-to-day relationships with police and others organization that can be mobilized in a crisis.

"Have you identified community partners, and understand what all the resources are, and what the capabilities are of the community at large is essential in getting through this," said Rebecca Elam, of the FBI.

The bus tour wended it's way to the Tree of Life Synagogue itself where the visitors were able to see firsthand the space inside where so many people lost their lives.

There, security experts spoke of the importance that an active shooter drill played, and also convincing Rabbi Jeffrey Myers to carry a cellphone on the Sabbath in opposition to Jewish tradition.

"He typically wouldn't have done it, but because we told him, 'Someone in the synagogue needs to have a cellphone in case there's an emergency,' he was able to make that first phone call to 911," said Jeff Finkelstein, of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

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