Kalamazoo College professor's mother had close encounter with Pittsburgh synagogue tragedy

Marlene Haus, a member of the Tree of Life Congregation, was planning to attend Saturday's service, but had ran late that morning. (WWMT/Courtesy Marlene Haus)

The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting has shaken people all across the country, but the tragedy hits close to home for a Kalamazoo man.

Marlene Haus, mother of Kalamazoo College professor and Pittsburgh native Jeffrey Haus, opened up about her close encounter with the horrific tragedy.

"This was my neighborhood, my synagogue. There was panic because I worried my mother had gone to the synagogue. It was just dumb luck that kept her out of there." said Jeffrey.

The shock set in for Jeffrey Haus when he first heard about the shooting early Saturday morning.

Marlene Haus, a member of the Tree of Life Congregation, was planning to attend Saturday's service, but had ran late that morning.

"I was lucky we were 10 minutes late. Several of the regular people who come on Saturday morning were also late, but decided not to come. It was raining heavily here," said Marelene.

When she arrived at Tree of Life, a SWAT team was on scene. Not long after she learned of the carnage that unfolded inside.

"The sad thing is that any of these people, all of 11 of them. If that fellow asked for anything, the shirt off their backs, they would have given it to them because they were that kind of people," She said.

The 11 victims were members of three Jewish congregations that all shared the Tree of Life synagogue.

"He killed people who were the pillars of each congregation they were people that came on time. They were most active people," Marlene said.

Among them she says Cecil and David Rosenthal, two brothers with special needs.

Jeffrey said he had met them last summer.

"They were both fixtures there. You couldn't miss them," he said.

Marlene said when the gunman closed in the synagogue, David tried to save Cecil.

"They tried to pull him with them to hide and he wouldn't go. Either he turned around to see his brother in the back or for some reason he turned around and he was shot," Marlene said.

She said it feels like the heart has been ripped out from her congregation, but is not giving up hope.

"Unfortunately this part of our tradition, we favor life over death. We just go forward," She said.

She said the signs of support have been incredible, felt from Pittsburgh all the way to Kalamazoo.

"Just when you feel like empathy is gone, something comes back to remind you it still exists and reminds you how powerful it is," Jeffery said.

Marlene said the tragedy could have been worse because a group of children were expected to be inside the synagogue for their weekly class on Saturday, but the class took place earlier in the week due to a schedule change.

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