There was “a little bit of a disturbance,” is how spiritual leader Rabbi Ari Weiss described events at on Friday morning, after a SWAT team descended upon the North Main Street building following reports a man was spotted on the premises carrying what appeared to be a rifle.
It turned out the man had purchased the wooden toy gun at the West Hartford synagogue’s tag sale, and there was no threat.
Rabbi Weiss’ reaction was typical of the congregants volunteering at the tag sale. They remained calm and put their faith in the
“We are very grateful for the wonderful job by the West Hartford Police Department,” said synagogue president Gary Sigal, who was cool under pressure while fielding several phone calls from concerned community members.
“We feel grateful no one was injured, and we feel confident should a crisis arrive, the West Hartford police will do an outstanding job,” said Sigal.
Esia Friedman, an organizer of the rummage sale, said she wasn’t nervous even as police evacuated the synagogue building and brought in trained dogs to sniff for bombs.
“That was the excitement,” she said, praising the police and adding she “assumed nothing happened.” Friedman said the man – “a white man, in his 40s, wearing a shirt with writing” – purchased a wooden toy gun, along with other items.
Ben Perslweig was working in the kitchen with his mother Abbey preparing food for after services on Saturday when they saw two policemen with assault rifles. They decided to get out of the building quickly.
“We are grateful the police are doing their job,” said Perlsweig.
An e-blast went out to the 100 congregants of the Orthodox synagogue explaining what happened.
There will be new rules at future rummage sales, said Sigal.
“We’re going to change our policy – no guns,” said Sigal. That includes Super-Soaker [water] guns for children, he said.
There were also reports police were called to , 2626 Albany Avenue, West Hartford, but Rabbi Howard Sowalsky at Beth El said there was a “false alarm” and had no further comment.