A deadly massacre at a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb has left a Jewish toddler an orphan.
Two-year-old Aiden survived Monday’s attack in Highland Park, Illinois, because his father shielded him with his body, local media reported. The toddler was eventually found wandering alone after the attack, and given to his grandparents by police.
Aiden will be raised by his grandparents, Misha and Nina Levberg, immigrants from Russia who raised their only child, Irina McCarthy, 35, in the Chicago area, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The grandfather told the paper that Irina met her husband, Kevin McCarthy, 37, through her job in pharmaceuticals.
Levberg picked up Aiden at the police station after a neighbor showed him a photo of a lost boy.
“He will have a long road ahead to heal,” said Irina Colon, who organized a GoFundMe page with the family’s permission. The fund had raised over $827,000 by Tuesday night.
At least two Jewish community members, including the boy’s mother, were among the seven fatalities who were killed. The other Jewish victim identified in Monday’s attack was Jacki Sundheim, 63, the bar and bat mitzvah and events coordinator at North Shore Congregation Israel, a Reform synagogue in Glencoe, Illinois. She attended the synagogue and had worked there for decades.
“There are no words sufficient to express the depth of our grief for Jacki’s death and sympathy for her family and loved ones,” said the synagogue.
Sundheim is survived by her husband, Bruce, and daughter Leah, according to the synagogue.
We are utterly heartbroken to report the toddler who was separated from his parents in yesterday’s Highland Park shooting is now an orphan. Both parents - Irina Levberg and Kevin McCarthy - were amongst the 7 victims of yesterday’s mass shooting. pic.twitter.com/iwLtgRhnwT— StopAntisemitism (@StopAntisemites) July 5, 2022
Other victims identified by authorities were Katherine Goldstein, 64, and Stephen Straus, 88. Details about them were not immediately available. Consul General in Chicago Yinam Cohen told Israeli media his office has “indications” that Goldstein and Straus may also have been Jewish.
"Indications" of more Jewish victims
About 50 people suffered gunshot wounds and related injuries, according to police and hospital officials, of whom 39 taken to hospitals ranged in age from 14 to their 70s, said spokesman Jim Anthony. Nine remained hospitalized.
The shooting happened four blocks from a Chabad center, Chabad News reported on Monday. Chabad said the alleged gunman visited Chabad of Highland Park earlier this year.
“The community is shell-shocked,” said Michla Schanowitz, co-director with her husband, Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz, of Chabad of Highland Park. When images of the now-apprehended suspect began circulating, the rabbi realized he’d seen the suspect before.
“In the spring of 2022, an individual who matches the description of the shooter briefly visited the synagogue,” Schanowitz said in a statement. “He entered wearing a yarmulke yet seemed out of place. Upon arriving, he was greeted by our security team, which includes off-duty police officers, and licensed and trained congregants, who observed him throughout. A short while later he departed without incident. We are, of course, working with law enforcement to help advance their investigation.”
A klezmer band is seen playing in a video when the shooter attacked. According to Chabad, the Jewish community is often quite involved with the parade, and it usually has a menorah float.
"The original Chicago Jewish suburb"
The entire North Shore region – stretching over 20 miles along Lake Michigan, from Evanston up to Lake Bluff – is heavily Jewish. Other adjacent suburbs north of Chicago, such as Buffalo Grove and Skokie, are also known for their large Jewish populations, but Highland Park has the highest Jewish percentage. It was the first Chicago suburb to grow a substantial Jewish population in the early 20th century.
Highland Park has a population of 30,176, about a third of whom are Jewish. The North Shore of Chicago’s large Jewish community has also made it a common destination for Israelis.
The alleged rooftop shooter, Robert E. Crimo III, was arrested on Monday evening and was charged on Tuesday with seven counts of first-degree murder. Police are still investigating the gunman’s motive.
If convicted, Crimo, 21, would face a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Illinois states attorney Eric Reinhart said in announcing the charges.
There have been over 350 mass shootings in the US so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group.
Reuters, Michael Starr and JTA contributed to this report.