Leaders in Wichita’s Jewish community said they were in mourning late Sunday following the news of three deaths in multiple shootings outside a Johnson County Jewish Community Center and a Jewish senior living facility.
“It is not only the Overland Park community in mourning tonight, we are all mourning,” said Rabbi Nissim Wernick of the Hebrew Congregation of Wichita. “It is a terrible, horrific event that has occurred on the eve of our Passover holiday, which celebrates the freedom of all people, not just the Jewish.”
According to the Kansas City Star, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass told Kansas City media the police are investigating the shootings as a hate crime.
Wernick said it may be an example of how “people are still slaves to prejudice. As long as prejudice continues, so long will humanity suffer.”
“The Jewish community will go on. It will always go on,” he said. “At the same time, we are in mourning and hoping and praying for a better day.”
Rabbi Michael Davis of Wichita’s Congregation Emanu-El said there was no reason for such deaths.
“I can only hope it is merely the act of an individual and it was an isolated incident,” Davis said.
As soon as word came of the shootings, members of the Wichita Jewish community began reaching out to family and friends in Kansas City.
“We are very shaken up of the experience in Kansas City,” said Wichitan Amos Leitner, 93, whose stepdaughter lives in Kansas City. She was safe.
“I, myself, have experienced situations like that in Europe,” Leitner said.
The shootings will undoubtedly have an effect on security at local Wichita Jewish gatherings, both Davis and Wernick said.
“Security is always a concern,” Davis said. “It is always on our minds and a priority.
“We will be in touch with the Wichita Police Department to make sure they are aware of things. I wouldn’t want to go into what we will be doing.”
Wernick said extra security will be on hand Tuesday evening as the community celebrates the Passover Seder.
Currently, the Jewish community is preparing to celebrate Pesach, Hebrew for Passover. The religious holiday begins at sundown Monday and concludes April 22, honoring the Jewish exodus from Egypt.