Law enforcement officers at the scene of a July 4 parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. (Photo/Forward-YOUNGRAE KIM-Getty Images)
Law enforcement officers at the scene of a July 4 parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. (Photo/Forward-YOUNGRAE KIM-Getty Images)

‘We’re living in an imperfect world’: Highland Park rabbi speaks out after mass shooting in heavily Jewish Chicago suburb

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When his wife called to tell him about the active shooter two blocks east of his synagogue, Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz raced outside to shepherd in four teenage boys who were preparing the Chabad booth for Highland Park’s July 4th parade.

The parade was scheduled to file past the synagogue on Central Avenue.

Once inside, the boys told Schanowitz that they had heard sirens and seen racing police cars. But, he said, they did not yet know that a gunman had opened fire on the parade, killing six and injuring at least two dozen in the affluent suburb north of Chicago, which is home to a significant number of Jews.

Several hours after the shooting, Robert E. Crimo III, 22, was taken into custody.

Schanowitz told the boys to stay put and call their parents. He then drove five minutes to the Highland Park Hospital, where he had volunteered as a chaplain before the pandemic, and walked into the emergency room.

“You have to do what you have to do,” said Schanowitz, 66. “I thought I should at least make sure that there’s clergy on the premises.”

“There was chaos,” he said — not just because of physical injuries. “There was an overload of unexpected trauma.”

A nurse suggested he go from room to room, and he began to introduce himself. “I told them I was clergy and I wished them all the best.” Respecting privacy, he did not ask anyone about their faith.

“Most of the people I saw were not of the Jewish faith,” he said. “There were a few who were.”

To himself, as he made the rounds, he said the shema.

Lauren Markoe
Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe is news editor at the Forward. Follow her on Twitter @lmarkoe.

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