Waterbury man taught at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh

New Haven

For Waterbury’s Moshe Schwarz, the shooting spree inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh hit very close to home.

“Utter shock,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening in a place that I knew so well.”

Moshe lives in Waterbury. But for five and a half years, he called Pittsburgh home. He lived in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood — home of the Tree of Life synagogue where a gunman opened fire last Saturday. In fact, he used to teach Sunday school there.

On Thursday, he spoke out exclusively to News 8.

“Just how senseless it was. How pointless it was,” he said. “There was no reason for those people to die.”

He finds it difficult to recall seeing the news reports that day — of the violence that hit his old neighborhood and the synagogue where he spent his Sundays teaching Jewish children. It’s a community that is still in his heart.

“I loved Squirrel Hill,” he said. “Warm, regular, nice people.”

Related Content: ‘I’m going to die’: Survivors relive horrors at Tree of Life

And now, knowing that some of those people lost their lives in that special places of worship is almost too much for Schwarz. He says it’s hard to put behind him.

“It just hurts,” he said.

Schwarz remembers some of the victims — like Cecil and David Rosenthal — two brothers whose funerals were on Wednesday. 

“I just remember them being such a significant– just part of the Tree of Life community and Squirrel Hill community and being very active in both of those communities,” he said.

Schwarz says it may be hard to believe, but he says something good has come from this tragedy. And he’s seeing that in his new home of Waterbury and Connecticut. He says community vigils in several places throughout the state have touched his heart.

Related Content: Harrowing tales emerge from synagogue; suspect due in court

“Just gives you hope and it reinforces what you know already is that most people are good,” he said.

And he feels that kind of love will help the people in Pittsburgh — his former home — carry through this dark time.

“Thank you,” he said. “Thank you for the support and it doesn’t go unnoticed.”

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