Closings & Delays across the Tennessee Valley

Huntsville community grieves after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Pittsburgh is hundreds of miles from the Tennessee Valley, but members of the Jewish community here in Huntsville are grieving after Saturday's shooting.

The tragic shooting happened on the Sabbath or the holiest day of the week for people of the Jewish faith. Rabbi Eric Berk of Temple B'Nai Sholom in Huntsville says there really are no words to describe what happened to those innocent people who just wanted to worship in Pittsburgh Saturday morning.

"My heart started to break for not only the lives lost, but also the loved ones of those whose lives have been lost and those who are injured," Berk said.

Rabbi Berk emphasized how seriously his temple takes security and safety for those who work and worship there to try and prevent something like this from happening at his temple.

Temple B'Nai Sholom has multiple cameras around and inside the building, and a remote-controlled lock on the front door that Berk says is almost always locked.

Barry Pendergraft, a former lieutenant with the Huntsville Police Department, says an overwhelming amount of places of worship aren't up to par on their security, but that's where he comes in.

"Everybody should know how to defend themselves," Pendergraft said.

Pendergraft specializes in showing churches and other places of worship how they can stay safe. One of the easiest ways to do that is making sure not just anyone can walk in the building.

"We should lock all the exterior doors and only have one way in once the service starts somebody needs to be at the door watching," Pendergraft said.

Rabbi Berk agrees.

"We balance being welcoming to those new faces and newcomers with being vigilant. So we aim to be friendly and outgoing but also realistic," the Rabbi said.

Pendergraft says that a lot of times acts of violence at a place of worship don't happen on the regular day of worship, so it's important to have a high-security presence at any time.