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MATTOON -- Past and present members of the close-knit Mattoon Jewish Community started to reach out to each other immediately after news broke of the mass shooting Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

"We are all grieving as a community right now," said Marjorie Hanft, lay worship leader with the Mattoon Jewish Community. "It has been a really hard week for everyone."

Hanft said a couple of her friends knew the doctor who was killed while he tried to help the wounded at the Tree of Life synagogue. Hanft, who has a daughter with autism, said she has been particularly shaken up by the killings of two developmentally disabled adult brothers there and of a 97-year-old woman, who was the same age as her father.

"How do you process that?" Hanft said.

Members of the Mattoon Jewish Community have individually donated to help the Tree of Life community and will likely discuss what action they should collectively take to show support during their next meeting, she said. Hanft added that she has been moved to see news reports of Muslim-American groups, for example, raising more than $70,000 for this cause.

The Mattoon Jewish Community was the victim of anti-semitic actions in 2001 when swastikas and the phrase "die Jew" were spray painted on the church building where the community had been meeting, Hanft said. They appreciated that that the local Methodist Church quickly organized a rally in support of the community, she said.

Hanft said the Mattoon Jewish Community continues to receive great support from the local Christian community. She said this support includes Trinity Episcopal Church and the Rev. Jeff Kozuszek hosting the Mattoon Jewish Community's services.

"I feel there is more interfaith support than a lot of people realized against anti-semitism," Hanft said. She added that, "For us, it's really important that we maintain those ties to the local Christian community."

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Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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