The parents of an orphaned toddler, the go-to person at her synagogue, the 88-year-old family patriarch— all Jewish, all murdered in the Highland Park parade mass shooting.
The number of Jewish fatalities at Monday’s shooting is high because Highland Park is very much a Jewish town. Around half of the residents in this northern suburb of Chicago are Jewish, a number significantly higher than the national average of only 3%.
Despite the large number of Jewish fatalities, Israeli Consul General in Chicago Yinam Cohen told The Times of Israel: “There are currently no indications that this was an antisemitic incident, even though the profile of the attacker might be thought to match such an incident.”
The other victims are a slice of America, Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, who was sitting in his wheelchair with his family when he was gunned down. Katherine Goldstein, 64, an avid bird watcher and mother of two daughters who befriended anyone and everyone. The seventh victim has not yet been publicly identified.
An orphaned toddler
Irina Levberg McCarthy, 35, and Kevin McCarthy, 37, were both killed in the shooting, their two-year-old son Aiden survived and is now being raised by his grandparents. Bystanders found Aiden wandering in the crowd during the chaos shouting for his mother and father.
A witness described a woman carrying the young boy who was covered in blood. Dana and Greg Ring said the woman carrying Aiden was in shock.
“She was physically shaking, her whole body,” said Dana Ring. “Which told us that … she shouldn’t be having to hold, and/or deal with a little one at the same time.”
“I wanted to try to find the little boy’s parents, went up, saw bodies, saw what was going on, then we went back to my in-laws,” Greg Ring added. “‘They said can you take care of the little boy?’ We said ‘of course’, we took him back to our in-laws and he just stayed and watched cartoons with our in-laws and then we were told the latest that a detective came and took care of the little boy and he has been reunited with his grandparents, that’s all we know.”
Irina McCarthy’s father, Michael Levberg, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Kevin died protecting his son.
“He had Aiden under his body when he was shot,” Levberg told the newspaper, adding that when he picked Aiden up at the police station, the little boy told him: “Mommy and Daddy are coming soon.”
“They were crazy about their child,” Levberg said, his voice breaking, the newspaper reported. “They were planning two.”
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with nearly $2 million already raised.
The go-to person at her synagogue
Jacki Sundheim, 63, was the events and b’nei mitzvah coordinator at North Shore Congregation Israel.
“Jacki was a lifelong congregant of NSCI and a cherished member of NSCI’s staff team 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,” the congregation wrote in an email to members.
“If you knew Jacki you’d know that she was one of the kindest people you’d ever meet and she went out of her way to help anyone,” her nephew wrote on Facebook.
The family patriarch
Stephen Straus, 88, is described as the patriarch of his family.
“Only those who have left this world know what awaits, and for me I can only say that if there are bells at Heaven’s Gate they are chiming and cheering for you, for a life well lived, and a soul well served,” his niece Cynthia Straus wrote on Facebook. “But, let’s be clear NO ONE should die this way.”
A Chicagoland native, according to The Forward while growing up his family sponsored dozens of Holocaust refugees who made their way to the Windy City following World War Two.
Originally Published Jul 11 2022 09:45AM EDT