Almost as soon as she heard the news about a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Elana Kahn-Oren’s phone started ringing.
As director of the Jewish Community Relations Council at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Kahn-Oren fielded call after call from concerned area Jews asking what they could do to help.
“We have to make sure to be respectful of the Sikh community and to make sure that we find appropriate avenues to express that support,” Kahn-Oren told JTA.
A day after Sunday’s shooting, the federation was offering counseling services, had opened a mailbox to receive donations for assisting with the financial needs of the victims and their families, and was in talks with the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee to figure out a way to bring religious leaders together for an interfaith prayer service.
“Coming together after events like these reaffirms the values of the community,” Kahn-Oren said.
The assailant killed six people, including the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek, before being shot dead by police. On Monday, police identified the shooter as Wade Page, an Army veteran with ties to white supremacists.
Jacob Herber of Congregation Beth Israel said the Milwaukee synagogue’s weekday minyan would hold moment of silence to commemorate and express solidarity with the victims, just as it does when Jews are attacked.
“Unfortunately, because we have experienced through much of our history, bigotry hatred and anti-Semitism, this event is very acute for us in its pain,” Herber said.
Tom Heinen, executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, said the tragedy hit home because of the tight-knit nature of the community in Milwaukee.
“Milwaukee is in many respects a large village where many people of many faiths are interconnected personally, professionally and socially,” he said.
In a statement, Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs said, “This sickening and senseless attack on peaceful worshipers is fundamentally an attack on pluralism and freedom. “These vicious murders not only took away from us six innocent people, it ripped a hole though heart of our entire nation.”