HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — A synagogue in Highland Park held a candlelight vigil for the victims of the parade shooting Thursday night and said the accused shooter showed up on Passover.
The Central Avenue Synagogue lit a candle for each of the seven victims; Jacki Sundheim, Nicolas Toledo, Irina McCarthy and her husband Kevin, Katherine Goldstein, Stephen Straus, and Eduardo Uvaldo.
Jeff Altshull has been a member of the synagogue for nearly 15 years. He was at the parade, heard the shots, and wanted to be here with his community.
“We were given a life by God and we should be able to live our life that God gave us for as long God wants us, not as long as some person running around with a gun wants us,” he said.
The man accused of the shooting had also walked through the doors of this Central Avenue Synagogue. He was spotted here during Passover, seeming out of place, with the synagogue’s safety team monitoring him during that visit.
“What happened over Passover — it’s fair to say he wasn’t here for the food,” Chiam Naiditch said.
Chaim Naiditch says the encounter crystallizes the need for synagogues to train members to respond to threats. That’s what his organization CCL Shuul does.
Its class of trained armed and unarmed members just graduated two weeks ago and greeted people as they walked into the prayer service on Thursday.
“They worked very hard, very dedicated, took a lot of time from them and we’re very proud that we graduated a class,” Naditch said.
The first funeral for a victim, Stephen Straus, is scheduled for Friday.