JEWISH COMMUNITY IN CHICAGO IN SHOCK, FEAR AFTER MURDER OF LOCAL LEADER
“We went from extreme happiness to mourning, it’s unbearable.”
he Jewish community in Chicago is in shock and mourning, a local rabbi has said, after Eliyahu Moscowitz, 24, was shot and killed close to the West Roger’s Park neighborhood which has a large Jewish community.
Moscowitz was out taking a walk in a nearby park some 25 minutes walking distance from the neighborhood when he was murdered on Monday night during the Simchat Torah holiday, apparently by a masked gunman who is also suspected of killing an elderly man the previous day.
Rabbi David Kotlarsky, who heads the nearby Chabad community of East Lakeview, was good friends with Moscowitz and studied with him at yeshiva.
He said that the pain of his death was “unimaginable” and that the entire community was in shock.
Kotlarsky said the police believe at present that the murder was not a hate crime, but that community members are nevertheless fearful for their safety, especially given the fact that the suspect is believed to have committed another random murder less than 48 hours earlier.
“We’re in total shock, it’s unreal that it could happen here,” Kotlarsky told The Jerusalem Post.
“The community is feeling hurt and we’re all in mourning. For it to happen on Simchas Torah, to such a special soul – that Hashem took him on such a day – was very challenging,” he said.
Kotlarsky, who spoke regularly with Moscowitz, described him as someone who always had a smile on his face, was always willing to help others, and was a generous person.
He said that Moscowitz had served as a prayer leader three years ago in his community on Yom Kippur, and had helped Jewish inmates at a local prison over Rosh Hashanah that year as well.
“He was a very sincere person. He always had thoughtful questions, he cared about people. He always wanted to have meaningful conversation, engage with the person he was talking with,” said the rabbi.
Moscowitz comes from a prominent Chabad family in Illinois, and worked as a kashrut supervisor at a local kosher grocery store.
His uncle, Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, was the head of Chabad in Illinois until 2014 when he died suddenly, while his first cousin, Rabbi Meir Moscowitz, serves as the current regional director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois.
A spokesman for the Israeli consulate in Chicago, Moran Birman, said that the consulate has been deeply saddened by the murder, and described the Chabad movement in Illinois as “good friends and allies.”