Leah Minda Ferencz and Moshe Hirsch Deutsch, two victims from Tuesday’s deadly Jersey City shootout, each in their own way, were key pillars of the region’s Orthodox community, said friends and family on Wednesday as they prepared for the victims’ burial.
Ferencz, 31, who operated the JC Kosher Supermarket that had been targeted in the shooting Tuesday, was there when the shootout occurred, said chabad Rabbi Moshe Schapiro.
“She was a caring and nurturing mother for her three children, and at the same time helped her husband who ran the first kosher grocery in the area, to ensure that the community’s families have somewhere to shop and feed their children,” according to a statement by the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn.
Deutsch, 24, who volunteered extensively in Williamsburg and beyond, “was a fine, all around altruistic spirit,” said Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox with Chai Lifeline, an international health care support organization, in which Deutsch was active as a volunteer, visiting with cancer patients. “It was all human spirit and human care.”
“The Jewish community is shaken,” said Evan Bernstein, The New York and New Jersey Regional Director of The Anti-Defamation League. “We want to get the details and understand what happened.”
The third victim of the shooting was Douglas Miguel Rodriguez Barzola, a recent immigrant from Guayaquil in Ecuador.
Alfonso Morales Suarez, the Consul General of Ecuador in New Jersey, said Rodriguez Barzola’s wife and daughter live here, but his mother still lives in Ecuador.
Rodriguez Barzola was a congregant at Iglesia Nueva Vida in Newark and had been working at the grocery store in Jersey City for more than a year to provide for his family, which includes a wife and an 11-year old daughter, said Williams Machazek, the pastor of Iglesia Nueva Vida.
“He was an excellent person,’’ he said. “He really looked out for his family, and they were inseparable. He was very active in the church.”
Ferencz, a Brooklyn native, was running the grocery store with her husband, Moshe Ferencz, who left before the shooting to attend afternoon prayers next door. When the shooting started, he feared the worst. Officials let him know at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday that she had been killed, Schapiro said.
Deutsch, a cousin of Ferencz, had been visiting the store Tuesday when the shootout occurred. He was the son of Abe Deutch, a community leader in Williamsburg, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Wednesday press conference.
Deutsch was a “very, very special individual,” said Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg. “He was busy studying but he always found time to help his peers. He was very active in feeding the hungry, especially before Passover. He helped in the annual distribution of food packages for 2,000 families in Brooklyn.”
Deutsch was a yeshiva student at Yeshiva Gedola of Satmar in Williamsburg. He also spent time as a respite volunteer visiting sick children in hospitals, and as a Big Brother for sick children and their siblings.
“He was a young Chassidic man who dedicated a lot of his time as a volunteer to working with ill children,” said Rabbi Fox, with Chai Lifeline. “He was also one of our stars in our annual Bike-a-thon, which draws attention and helps further the cause of the work we do for sick children.
“It was a very tragic loss,” Fox said. “He had many associates who were very close to him and scores of children and families who he helped and they are all very much feeling the loss.”
According to the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, Ferencz and her husband were pioneers — among the first to relocate from Williamsburg, due to rising housing prices, to settle in Jersey City. “They did not do it for themselves, but to pave the way for a new community that lives harmoniously with their neighbors,” the group said.
Many people come to the Jersey City store to get a kosher sandwich because it’s the only place in town to get kosher food, Schapiro said. Deutsch had stopped in for a visit Tuesday with a cousin when the shooting started.
“This is all very hard on the whole family,” Schapiro said.
The two Jewish victims were to be buried Wednesday night in Kyrias Joel, the Hasidic Jewish community located near Monroe in Orange County in upstate New York.
“It’s heartbreaking. There are no words to describe it,” said Rabbi Jack Meyer, co-founder of Misaskim, the Brooklyn-based organization that provides emergency relief and bereavement services.
The third victim, Rodriguez Barzola, who was living in Harrison, volunteered to help whenever he could at his church, but did not always go to Sunday service because he often worked at the grocery store that day, Machazek said.
He said his wife is distraught, and that his family is now raising funds to send Rodriguez Barzola’s body back to Ecuador. He said the church is doing all it can to help the family.
“There is prayer, we are working toward helping them, and the entire church has risen,’’ he said.
Schapiro said that “relations between the various groups in the neighborhood have been good. They have never had problems with the neighbors. There’s media saying they were targeted directly. But obviously this is shocking and scary but they don’t feel anti-Semitism in that part of the community. They never had any problem, so this was a shock to them.
“As citizens of the world, as Jewish people watching this we ask, ‘How can we respond to this?’ ” Schapiro said. “By bringing more light to a dark scene. As the Talmud teaches us, a little light can push away darkness. We can bring more positivity in the world. That’s the best way to help.”
He said the community has set up a GoFundMe page to help the families.
“We feel a lot of pain but we have to understand why this is a moment of urgency,” de Blasio said. “This confirms the sad truth that there’s a crisis of anti-Semitism gripping this nation and a crisis of anti-Semitism in the city. It has continued to take on a more violent form all over the country and now we have seen an extraordinary and extreme form of violence that reached the doorsteps of New York City and we have to take that as a warning sign.”
The New York City executive director for prevention of hate crimes will be leading an effort to work with communities all over the city, de Blasio said, to ensure the safety of the entire city especially the Jewish community.
“We must recognize the greater context in which this outrage occurred,” Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox advocacy group, said in a statement. “Jews have been targeted in city streets, in their houses of worship and online. The increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents is alarming and needs to be urgently addressed.
“We pray that the plans of all who would do our people harm be frustrated, and that all Americans be spared any future such senseless violence.”
Ronald S. Lauder, founder of the Anti-Semitism Accountability Project, said in a statement, “The horrendous attack in Jersey City is yet another glaring example of how Jews are being violently targeted across the United States. It’s time to hold elected officials accountable: if you enable anti-Semitism or fail to take it seriously, we will see to it that you lose reelection. We will see to it before other communities become memorials. Looking the other way never has — and never will — end well.”
Jim Sues, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations New Jersey chapter, said in a statement: “We stand in solidarity with our Jewish sisters and brothers and ask people of all faiths and backgrounds to repudiate the hatred that apparently motivated this heinous attack. As a diverse community, we must not allow hatred to be fueled against any person or group.”
Staff writer Ricardo Kaulessar contributed to this article.