This was a story that the cops reporters covered copiously. I was hoping to capture the elements that were particularly hurtful to this community. A child nailed it:
SYNAGOGUE SHOOTING EVEN PAINFUL TO GOD
Date: Thursday, October 6, 2005
Edition: Palm Beach Section: LOCAL Page: 1B
Byline: HOWARD GOODMAN COMMENTARY
The hole was about 2 1/2 inches wide, as indicated by the stick-on measurement left by detectives, and surrounded by webbings of shattered glass.
It pierced a wall-length window of the Chabad Weltman Synagogue west of Boca Raton.
Josh Goldberg is 6. He wore shiny black shoes and dress pants, his holiday wear, and stood on the sidewalk surrounding the shopping-center synagogue where he goes to Hebrew school once a week.
He stared with a look of sorrow at the uncovered hole and the shattered glass.
"The old man," he said, "shot a part of God's heart."
It was unimaginable that someone would bring a pistol to a house of worship -- on the first day of Rosh Hashana -- and shoot another worshiper.
Except someone imagined it. And did it.
In a shocking eruption of violence on one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, a 79-year-old congregant named Marc Benayer was arrested Tuesday on charges he shot and critically wounded another member, Jonathan Samuels, 44.
Ironically, synagogues prepared for potential violence over these High Holy Days. They arranged for protection by sheriff deputies. But the only violence anyone contemplated was from fanatics who would commit hate crimes -- never Jews attacking one another.
"I heard the pop, pop, pop, and being Jewish and never going hunting, I didn't know what it was," said Marty Friedman, who was in services when he heard the shots. "I thought it was a car backfiring, but it sounded different, so it had to be the other thing, a gun -- but I thought no, it couldn't be."
If you're not Jewish, you probably don't appreciate how strange and shocking this incident is.
Rosh Hashana is one of the two times in the year, besides Yom Kippur, when even Jews who are casual about the religion make an appearance at synagogue.
The holiday marks the new year, but this is no New Year's boozefest like the Dec. 31 countdown of party hats, Dick Clark and champagne. You'd never see anyone firing shots in the air.
No, in Jewish tradition the new year is marked with prayer and reflection. Jews are supposed to spend the 10 days bracketed by Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur thinking of other people whom they have hurt or injured -- purposely or inadvertently -- and talk to them face to face. They're supposed to reconcile any differences. To understand, apologize, forgive.
It's the very antithesis of vengeance.
But there is no ethnic or religious exclusivity when it comes to rage or mental imbalance.
And Benayer gives every indication of a man unhinged with jealousy and anger, over a broken relationship with a widow named Marta Pinto. Benayer blamed Samuels, Pinto's employer, for helping her get a restraining order against him.
Rabbi Zalman Bukiet, clearly devastated by events, was crying and had trouble speaking at Wednesday services, several congregants said. He said he had known Benayer was upset and had asked him to stay away from Rosh Hashana services. But he had no idea Benayer had a gun, let alone would use it.
The rabbi told the congregation it was important to bond together, to stay strong.
Friedman had exchanged pleasantries with Benayer on many Saturday mornings, at Shabbat services. He never suspected the older man was boiling with anger. "You can never tell what's inside somebody," Friedman said, shaking his head. "Unbelievable."
When violence intrudes on a house of worship, a little bit of security gets taken away from all of us.
"God's probably in pain right now," 6-year-old Josh said, "because the bullet is in His heart."
Yes, God probably is in pain. All over the globe, too many people are inflicting deadly harm on other people.
Even in the places where God most conspicuously dwells.