Overland Park – our home town

As we were sitting in Barcelona, Spain, we were shocked to see the BBC News announcing the murders of three people in our home town of Overland Park, Kansas, on our Jewish Community Campus.

April 23, 2014 22:14
2 minute read.
Kansas Jewish center shooting

Memorial for Kansas Jewish center shooting victims. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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As we were sitting in Barcelona, Spain, we were shocked to see the BBC News announcing the murders of three people in our home town of Overland Park, Kansas, on our Jewish Community Campus.

Barry and I both grew up across the state line in Kansas City, Missouri.

When he returned to the area, he resided in another nearby Kansas suburb. When we got married, we chose to live in Overland Park because it was near our synagogue (one of seven in town) where we both served on the board and were active and where I was librarian for 17 years and PR director for five.

Overland Park was also close to the Jewish Community Campus where I worked as a substitute teacher and special teacher for the day school for 11 years, as a teacher for the Jewish community high school for six years and for the senior citizen center as an ESL teacher for seven years.

My daughters attended the campus summer day camp, my youngest, Elissa, worked at the pool kiosk one summer, Barry went to the athletic department to work out from time to time and we both enjoyed the pool and the many lectures and cultural activities offered there.

In short, the campus was very much a part of our lives, and we were active members of the 20,000-strong Overland Park Jewish community.

We were not blind to the fact that Overland Park may have had its share of PLO cells, white supremacists and even KKK, but they were all fairly low-key, at least in the 20 or so years Barry and I called OP home. For Jews, it has been a thriving, safe and secure environment. One of the major supermarket chains allowed their bakery to be made kosher and carried a large amount of kosher products and even meat. A Chinese restaurant koshered a room and its contents in order to offer a Sunday of kosher Chinese food once a month. A Subway franchise for some time had its place kosher.

To know that people of all faiths could enjoy the activities of our campus has always been special.

To hear that well-meaning Christians were gunned down by a fanatic is not only disturbing but frightening to those relatives and friends who live there today.

The Jewish community is closeknit, with positive ties to the non-Jewish world around them.

Regretfully, one of those connections turned out to be fatal to three non-Jewish individuals. It is ironic that the racist murderer could not even tell the difference between Jewish and non-Jewish individuals.

We are sorry that this is the way people will now think of Overland Park, because we still call it our “home town.”

Sybil and Barry Kaplan are a journalist/ photographer team of foreign correspondents who live in Jerusalem.

Sybil is a food writer and cookbook author who leads weekly walks in English in Machaneh Yehudah market and is co-president of one of the English-speaking chapters of Hadassah-Israel. The Kaplans are also active members of Kehilat Moreshet Avraham.

THE SITE of the deadly shooting in Kansas. (Reuters)

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