Thursday, October 04, 2018

Shocking Murders - Too Close to Home

Counterclockwise from top left: Eliyahu, Mr. Watts, & the suspect (Sun-Times
Two people were randomly murdered in Chicago over Sukkos. Both shot in the head at point blank range by an unknown assailant. The first victim was 73 year old Douglass Watts - killed Sunday morning while walking his dogs. The next evening (Monday night which was Simchas Torah in Chicago) 24 year old  Eliyahu Moscowitz suffered the same fate – shot in the head while strolling through a bike path near the lakefront in Chicago’s East Rogers Park neighborhood.

Police have determined that the bullets fired were from the same gun. And apparently shot by the same individual for reasons unknown. I didn’t know Mr. Watts. And the truth is that I didn’t know Eliyahu either. But I do know who his father is. He is Mendel Moscowitz, a Lubavitcher Chasid. I often spot him in Bnei Ruven, the Chabad Shul that I frequent. Tragedy has stalked the Moscowitzes in recent years. They lost another son (24 or 25 years old at the time of  his death) a few years ago under mysterious circumstances.

Mendel also lost his older brother (Eliyahu’s  uncle) Rabbi Doniel ‘Danny’ Moskowitz, who headed Chabad-Lubavitch of Illinois for years until his untimely death from natural causes.

Eliyahu’s grandfather, Frank Moscowitz, is, however, someone I know quite well. Both he and I attended the entire 7 and ½ year Daf Yomi Shiur given by Rabbi Yosef Bechhofer over 20 years ago (10th cycle). A finer man than Frank one will not find.

I cannot begin to imagine what this family had gone through even before this happened. And now they are grieving once again for yet another son (and grandson). There are no words.

Unlike Chicago’s West and South Side, East Rogers Park which is a neighborhood that adjoins my own West Rogers Park neighborhood (where the largest portion of Orthodox Jews in Chicago live) - these neighborhoods do not see too many murders.

I hasten to add that this does not in any way minimize the almost daily tragedy of murders taking place on those West and South side neighborhoods. Nor does it  in anyway minimize the grief felt by the families of those victims. Innocent people there are often shot -  caught in the crossfire of gang murders. The grieving families and communities of those neighborhoods suffer their losses no less than we do.

That said, our community (of both Jews and non Jews) is shaken. Things like this just don’t happen to us. Random murders like this by masked assailants are something to genuinely fear. It could happen to anyone at any time. May God protect us!

The police have increased their presence in our neighborhoods for that reason. But it is impossible for them to be everywhere all the time. We must be vigilant.
The police are nevertheless investigating the case with vigor - and according to one report I saw the FBI is now involved. These shootings might be hate crimes.

They apparently have an image of the man who did this recorded on a surveillance video. But he is masked. I’m not sure whether such an image can lead anywhere. God willing, the murderer will be caught soon and brought to justice.  Not that this will bring back either Eliyahu or Mr. Watts. But it will at least it will offer some semblance of justice.

In the meantime the families of both men are grieving and suffering an inexplicable loss. I want to publicly offer my sincere condolences to both families. And to the Moscowitz family, I want to offer the traditional Jewish condolence prayer:

HaMakom Yenachem Es'chem B'soch Shar Availei Tzion Ve’Yerushalayim.