Israel’s Foreign Ministry says they have been in touch with officials from the U.S. State Department who have informed them that Jewish victims are among those hurt in the developing tragedy in Highland Park, Illinois, in which a suspect opened fire on a July 4th parade, killing at least 6 people and injuring two dozen others.
Details over who the victims are remain sparse, though the Jerusalem Post has confirmed that there are at least 2 Jewish victims among the deceased casualties.
A group of 4 Lubavitcher bochurim who were running a tefillin stand at the parade escaped unharmed after bullets began flying. The bochurim, who were there to place tefillin on parade-goers, managed to get to the nearby Chabad house before moving safely to a residence. They are currently remaining indoors upon police recommendations.
A message sent to the Lubavitcher community from Rabbi Sholom Ber Halberstam stated that the bochurim were two blocks from where the shooting took place, and all are now in a safe location.
The scene is still considered active, and a massive police response is ongoing to bring the shooter into custody. The suspect has been described as a white male between the ages of 18 and 20, with longer black hair and a slight build.
Michla Schanowitz, co-director of North Suburban Lubavitch Chabad—Central Avenue Synagogue, was outside her Chabad center at the heart of the parade’s route, just four blocks away from the shooting, when she saw crowds running toward her. Chabad had a table set up outside the center offering passersby a chance to put on tefillin or take a Shabbat candle kit, manned by four young rabbinical students from Chabad’s Yeshivas Ohr Eliyahu Lubavitch Mesivta of Chicago.
“The parade had barely started. All of a sudden, I see everyone running towards us,” Schanowitz tells Chabad.org. She began rushing people to safety inside her Chabad center immediately. “Come inside, it’s a synagogue,” she shouted to the stunned passersby.
Schanowitz reports that her student volunteers are all safe and accounted for.
The parade annually has a strong Jewish presence, with Chabad running a float complete with a giant menorah and providing other Jewish experiences for participants.
“Our kids were at the parade, near the shul, with a lot of others,” says local resident Dovid Weissman. “As soon as they heard there was a shooting, they ran home. Right now, we are all sheltering at home, waiting for the shooter to be found. People have been posting on our community WhatsApp group, sharing word that they are OK.”
As word spread, para
des in neighboring suburbs were canceled as well. In Skokie, the parade was called off just before Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie’s Mitzvah Tank was about to roll down the parade route, festooned with a large American flag and stocked with thousands of magnets encouraging goodness and kindness.
“We understand that prudence dictated that the parade be called off,” says Rabbi Yochanan Posner of Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie. “But will we persist in spreading the message of gratitude to the United States of America for giving us freedom and being conducive to a society which values goodness and kindness. So, while there is tragically no formal parade today, our ‘parade’ of a single vehicle will be traveling the streets of Skokie and proclaiming that message.”
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)