Rabbi killed in Jerusalem synagogue grew up in Oak Park
Members of Metro Detroit's Jewish community reacted with grief and outrage Tuesday after a bloody attack on a Jerusalem synagogue left five people dead, including a rabbi who grew up in Oak Park.
Aryeh Kupinsky, 43, and fellow American rabbis Kalman Levine, 55, and Moshe Twersky, 59, were among five people killed Tuesday when two Palestinian cousins carrying knives, axes and guns stormed the synagogue. The other fatalities were British Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, 68, and an Israel police officer who died of his wounds hours after the attack.
Five others were wounded.
Police shot and killed the two attackers.
Former neighbor Esther Schwartz says Kupinsky's parents moved the family from Oak Park to Israel about 30 years ago, when he was about 10.
She said the families stayed in touch over the years. "We go to Israel every year," Schwartz said. "We have kids there and we'd see (Kupinsky's family.) We'd always get together." Schwartz said the last time they saw Aryeh Kupinsky was last summer, at a birthday party for his mother.
"They're like family and such good, good people," she said. "Aryeh always had a smile on his face. He was the first one to say 'Hello.' He was the first one to ask if there was anything he could do for you."
Schwartz said her son, who lives in Israel, was friends with Kupinsky there and emailed her Tuesday about his slaying.
"I got the email at about 6 a.m. today," she said. "I couldn't believe it. My husband and I couldn't stop crying all morning."
She described Kupinsky, the third of five children, as "very religious" and said his slaying was "shocking, senseless and useless."
Kupinsky, who is survived by his wife and five children, worshipped frequently at the synagogue where he died.
Rabbi Michael Cohen of Young Israel of Oak Park, the school Kupinsky attended when he lived in Metro Detroit, said the attack left the school and the larger community sad and somber. Cohen came to the school in 2008, long after Kupinsky had moved.
"It's particularly somber because we knew someone killed in the attack, but it also hits close to home when people are butchered while praying in a synagogue," he said. "It's an affront. It's a personal injury. And that's what the attackers intended by targeting people in a synagogue."
Cohen said the community is praying for the recovery of the victims who survived the attack.
Israeli police said Kupinsky, Levine, Twersky and Goldberg all held dual Israeli citizenship. The Israel Foreign Ministry described the four as "rabbis," an honorific title in the ultra-Orthodox world given to men who are considered pious and learned.
"We are profoundly saddened by today's vicious murder by Palestinian terrorists of four defenseless Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in Jerusalem," Dr. Richard Krugel, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Birmingham, said in a statement.
The attack ratcheted up fears of sustained violence in a city already on edge amid soaring tensions over its most contested holy site.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to "respond harshly," describing the attack as a "cruel murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by despicable murderers." He ordered the demolition of the attackers' homes, as well as homes of Palestinians who carried out several other recent attacks.
Police said the attack occurred in Har Nof, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood that has a large population of English-speaking immigrants.
Thousands attended a joint funeral for Kupinsky, Levine and Goldberg before sundown. It was held outside the synagogue where the attack occurred.
President Barack Obama called the attack "horrific" and without justification, urging cooperation from both sides to ease tensions.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he spoke to Netanyahu after the assault and denounced it as an "act of pure terror and senseless brutality and violence."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, the first time he has done so since a recent spike in deadly violence against Israelis. He also called for an end to Israeli "provocations" surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque, a sacred shrine holy to both Muslims and Jews.
In a nationally televised address, Netanyahu accused Abbas of inciting the recent violence and said the Palestinian leader's condemnation of the attack was insufficient.
The attack was the deadliest in Jerusalem since a Palestinian assailant killed eight students at a Jewish seminar in March 2008.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri identified the assailants as Ghassan and Oday Abu Jamal from the Jabal Mukaber neighborhood in east Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians as their capital.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small militant group, said the cousins were members, but did not say whether they had been instructed to carry out the attack. Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that runs the Gaza Strip, praised the attack. In Gaza, dozens took to the streets to celebrate.
Yosef Posternak, who was at the synagogue during the attack, told Israel Radio about 25 worshippers were inside at the time.
"People were trying to fight with (the attackers) but they didn't have much of a chance," Posternak said.
The Associated Press and Detroit News Staff Writer Charles E. Ramirez contributed.