Rabbi Peter Berg speaks during a prayer vigil for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue deadly shooting at The Temple on Tuesday, October 30, 2018, in Atlanta. The Temple hosted an interfaith prayer vigil in conjunction with Outcry. (Photo: JASON GETZ/SPECIAL TO THE AJC)
Photo: Jason Getz
Photo: Jason Getz

Metro Atlanta remains wary of synagogue violence

For the second time in six months, members of the metro Atlanta Jewish community were on high alert after a tragedy was reported at an American synagogue. 

On Saturday, at least one person had died, while three others were being treated for injuries at a local hospital, after a gunman opened fire at a synagogue just north of San Diego. Worshippers had gathered to celebrate the final day of Passover. 

In metro Atlanta, security has been a priority at area synagogues in recent years, and especially in recent months since the October shooting in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead. 

RELATED: Latest details in California tragedy

Late Saturday, members of the local Jewish community expressed shock and dismay after news spread about the shooting in Southern California. 

A local leader told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the community was anxiously awaiting more details. 

The community is “saddened beyond words,” said Dov Wilker, regional director of the American Jewish Committee of Atlanta. “We pray for the recovery of those injured.” 

The Associated Press reported that San Diego County deputies were called to the scene of the synagogue roughly 20 miles north of San Diego just before 11:30 a.m. Apparently, four patients were admitted to Palomar Health Medical Center Hospital around 12:30 p.m., a spokesman said. 

A 19-year-old man is in custody, according to local TV reports. 

In Pittsburgh, a truck driver went on a shooting rampage at Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27. He was charged by federal officials with 29 criminal counts and faces state charges. He’s pleaded not guilty. Eleven people were killed and several more were injured. 

RELATED: After the Pittsburgh tragedy: It’s time for the right people to say ‘Enough’ 

At the time of the Pittsburgh shooting in October 2018, the Anti-Defamation League reported anti-Semitism is growing. The ADL found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose 57 percent in 2017 — the largest single-year increase on record and the second-highest number reported since ADL started tracking such data in 1979. The sharp rise was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.

The metro Atlanta Jewish community is no stranger to violence and devastation. In 1958, the city’s oldest and most prominent synagogue was the target of a bomb attack that left part of the building severely damaged. Nobody was hurt.  Mayor William B. Hartsfield denounced the bombers in a television address filmed amid the wreckage. Authorities suspected five men were responsible for the bombing, but only one stood trial; he was acquitted.

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