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North Shore Jewish Center. File photo

Congregants from North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station and Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook punctuated a difficult week with a Nov. 4 event meant to inspire and unite the community.

The state of Israel declared its independence in May 1948, and to commemorate the 70th anniversary this year, North Shore Jewish Center and Temple Isaiah came together for a long-planned celebration called Celebrate Israel @ 70 which took on an additional purpose following the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

On Oct. 27, while many of the congregation at Tree of Life, and Jewish people at similar houses of worship across the country prayed, a gunman murdered 11 people and wounded seven others. It is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in the United States in American history, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The Nov. 4 celebration was aptly timed for some.

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky of Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook speaks during an event at North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jeff Station celebrating the 70th anniversary of Israel’s Independence. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It really has been a balm, a healing experience as well as a happy experience,” said Rabbi Aaron Benson of NSJC of the event. “Given the historic events of the past week, that the event would happen this Sunday of all times has had an extra value and meaning as a moment of healing and community togetherness, in this case surrounding something hopeful and joyous.”

Committees from both synagogues had been planning the celebration for about eight months, according to Eric Steinberg, NSJC’s chairman of the Israeli Committee. The free event featured speakers discussing technology in Israel, flight attendants from El Al Israel Airlines, water desalination and its impact helping the country grow crops in the desert, lunch, events for the congregants’ children and more.

“If you notice we’re not talking politics, we’re not talking anything about that,” Steinberg said. “This was a determined thought by the committee just to do something positive … I wanted to bring the focus of Israel to the community.”

North Shore Jewish Center also hosted events in the wake of the shooting meant as a remembrance for the victims and to provide a sense of community togetherness, according to Benson. As a precaution, the rabbi said the synagogue bolstered security ahead of the event, including a Suffolk County Police Department presence.

“In many ways, the country as a whole has been in mourning and Jewish communities have responded in much the same way as when a friend might suffer a loss,” he said. “It has never happened in quite this way to the Jewish community in America before … And while one shouldn’t go through life fearful or paranoid that people are out to hurt you, the idea that in all the ways a person is Jewish, one aspect of that is that there are people who may simply not like you because of your religious background. That is a feature of Jewish life, and it does mean that terrible things can happen because of one’s religious identity.”

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky of Temple Isaiah echoed much of his colleague’s sentiments in speaking to those in attendance.

“Even as we remember, even as we continue to mourn, we celebrate together, we gain inspiration from each other,” he said.

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There is a lot of stress in our lives these days. Stress envelops us. One man I know complained that even in his home, he does not feel stress free. When he puts on the television or radio, the now-commonplace partisan viewpoints surround him. And that is the least of it. The horrific shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue, pipe bombs sent to at least 15 different targets perceived to be Democratic in nature throughout the United States, the shooting at a school in North Carolina and more make up some of the news just this past week. There seems to be no escape. Even conversation with customers or spouses inevitably touches on the daily stressful events.

Surely there have been times of even greater stress in our country. World War II comes immediately to mind. The Cold War, with regular air raids, was another. The Cuban Missile Crisis was yet another. But these were all threats from outside: from the Nazis, the Japanese, the Soviet Union. The stress today, whether rhetorical or physical, is domestic and aimed by Americans against other Americans. Worst of all, as political partisans denigrate opponents and gun violence becomes tragically routine, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

Can we learn to manage the stress in our lives? The Harvard Women’s Health Watch advises that we can. In the August issue, published by a division of Harvard Medical School, physicians offer some information about stress and its effects. They also give some suggestions for coping with stress.

First the information. “It’s not uncommon to feel disorganized and forgetful when you’re under a lot of stress,” the article, “Protect your brain from stress,” explained. “But over the long term, stress may actually change your brain in ways that affect your memory.” Because stress can influence how the brain functions, including not only memory but also mood and anxiety, it can cause inflammation. This in turn can affect heart health. Thus stress has been associated with multiple chronic diseases of the brain and heart, according to Harvard physicians.

The brain is not just a single unit but a group of different parts that perform different tasks, according to the Harvard article. When one part is engaged, researchers believe that other parts may not have as much energy for their specialized functions. One example is if you are in a dangerous situation, the amygdala section takes over to ensure survival, while the energy level in parts having to do with memory or higher-order tasks recedes. Hence you might be more forgetful when stressed.

“There is evidence that chronic (persistent) stress may actually rewire your brain,” according to the research, as if exercising one section makes it stronger while other sections, like that having to do with more complex thought, take “a back seat.” Such brain changes may be reversible.

There are various kinds of stress. For example, one feels differently before taking a big test compared with that experienced in a car accident. More stress is worse, and long-term stress is generally worse than short-term stress, according to the physicians. Unpredictable stress is worse than stress that can be anticipated. Chronic stress can be more challenging than one that will end shortly. Feeling supported by others most likely mitigates stress effects.

So here is some advice from the Harvard publication on how to cope with stress. Establish some control over your situation such as by setting a routine. Get organized. Get a good night’s sleep — hard to do when stressed but going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps, as does avoiding caffeine and creating a relaxing sleep environment. Get help, sooner rather than later. And try to change your attitude toward stress by striving for healthier responses to stress. Use its effects, if you can, to high power you to a goal. Like voting.

And I say, turn off the television and the instant news briefs on your cellphone for some quiet time each day.

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Suffolk County Police Department 6th squad detectives are investigating an incident in which a man and woman were shot in Centereach and later died from the injuries.

The 6th Precinct officers responded to a 911 report of two injured people in a car on Washington Avenue at approximately 8 p.m. Sept. 11, according to police. When officers arrived they found the woman in the driver’s seat of a 2014 Kia Soul with a gunshot wound to the head and the man in the passenger’s seat with a gunshot wound to the head. A firearm was recovered inside the vehicle.

Police have identified Erick Horton, 48, of Coram, and Stacy Rountree, 48, of Coram, as the of the incident. Horton and Rountree have both died from their injuries following the shooting, according to police.

Detectives are asking anyone with information about the incident to call 631-854-8652.

This post was updated Sept. 14 following updates from the police on the victims’ status.

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It’s the end of July so it’s likely the minds of students, administrators and parents have drifted far away from the hallways of their schools, away from school board meetings and discussions about funding safety improvements. It’s understandable. But following an in-office, exclusive interview with Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) July 20, county residents should sleep well knowing he has allowed himself no such break.

Hardening schools for the worst-case scenario — an intruder entering a local school with the means and intent to impose lethal, widespread harm — has become a top priority for districts across the country since the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. In the absence of substantive action on tightening gun laws with commonsense reform coming from the increasingly feckless Washington anytime soon, local municipalities and schools have had to get creative.

This week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed a bill permitting the county to pursue bond funding for a mobile application that government employees and school administrators will be able to download and use to directly contact law enforcement in the event of a shooting at a school or government building. In the aftermath of Parkland, Bellone announced an initiative that would allow districts interested in participating to grant access to school security systems to the Suffolk County Police Department, so that in the case of an emergency, law enforcement can see exactly what’s going on in the school. New York State passed its own set of bills in the spring as well, mostly geared toward allocating funds to districts interested in securing infrastructure or hiring additional security or mental health personnel.

These plans are a great start, especially, again, since we would all turn blue in the face holding our breath waiting for Congress. But Toulon raised some issues that seemed to us like they needed to be heard.

When asked if he could wave a magic wand and grant one thing to all 69 of Suffolk’s school districts to make them more secure, he identified establishing uniform practices countywide for training security — armed or otherwise — so that responders have a better feel for what they’re walking into should one of these dark days strike close to home. Uncertainty about what to expect between police and school district security should be the last thing either should be worried about in the midst of a frantic mission to save lives.

Further, Toulon said he has made his office available to districts interested in having their security practices assessed on a voluntary basis. So far, he said just 10 of the 69 districts have taken him up on the offer. We’d like to see that number reach 100 percent by the end of this year.

In addition, the sheriff’s office plans to host a forum for Suffolk school superintendents Aug. 16 at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue to talk broadly about school security and to share ideas. The offices of the sheriff and county executive have not let this issue fade away during the summer months, and we hope schools haven’t forgotten either.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

A dispute inside a Port Jefferson Station pool hall resulted in the shooting death of a 27-year-old man July 22.

Suffolk County Police Homicide detectives are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred inside Billiards DBM, located at 1604 Main Street in Port Jefferson Station at about 8:30 p.m. Sunday night, according to police.

Following an altercation, Albert Luis Lopez Rodriguez was shot inside the hall, police said. Rodriguez, 27, of Selden was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

The investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information about the incident to call the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

U.S. Rep Suozzi waves from the field during the game. Photo from Suozzi’s office

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) made his way to the dugout to play in the congressional bipartisan baseball game last Thursday, June 15. The game came one day after House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) was shot by a gunman, along with four others, during a practice just outside of Washington D.C.

Suozzi said the experience was very unique.

“To be one of only 20 players, and a freshman, on the Democrats congressional baseball team was an awesome experience,” he said in a statement. “After the shootings last Wednesday, the game took on a more important meaning, and the experience was truly humbling. Since day one I have talked about bipartisan cooperation and civility. It’s a shame it took a tragedy, but now it’s a part of the national conversation.”

Suozzi said he and his teammates first learned of the shootings at the Republican practice in Arlington, Virginia, around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning while the Democrats were practicing at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

“After the initial shock, confirmation of the events and being instructed by police to shelter in place at the dugout, the entire Democratic team circled together and prayed for our Republican colleagues and the other victims,” he said.

Before Thursday night’s game, both teams kneeled at second base at Nationals Park, where Scalise was supposed to have played, in a show of bipartisan unity. Democrats and Republicans prayed for the victims and their families as well as to come together as one united Congress.

The game raised a record $1.5 million for charity and was attended by nearly 25,000 fans. This was the 80th game of a tradition dating back to 1909. Capitol Police officer David Bailey, who was injured in the attack, threw out the first pitch.

Suozzi said the show of unity was very important.

“I sincerely hope we use this unique opportunity to show the American people that we’re here to try and get things done — together as Americans,” he said.

Suozzi had a hard-hit line drive to the shortstop and a ground ball to the third baseman, leaving him 0 for 2.

“It was still a fantastic experience and I hope I get to play again next year,” he said.

The Democrats won the game 11-2, and following their victory gave this year’s trophy to the Republicans to place in Scalise’s office until he recovers.

“I will continue to pray for Steve, the injured officers and other victims, and for our country,” Suozzi said. “We have important work to do. The people are sick of politics and politicians, and we need to work together on these life and death issues and actually get things done — together.”

File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating the shooting of a man in Greenlawn early Wednesday morning.

Omar Fuentes was standing with a group of people in front of 283A Broadway when police said a man approached the group, fired shots then fled on foot south of Broadway. Fuentes, 30, of Greenlawn, was struck twice in the hip and transported by Greenlawn Fire Department to Huntington Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The suspect was described as short, thin and was wearing all black.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating a shooting that injured two men in Huntington Station early Wednesday morning, May 17.

Two men were standing at East 11th Street and Grand Place at approximately 1:15 a.m. when they were allegedly approached by a group of males who shot them.

The victims, ages 25 and 20, were transported via Huntington Community 1st Aid Squad to Huntington Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

The investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the shooting to call the Second Squad at 631-854-8252 or call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

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Alain Jean mugshot from SCPD

A 23-year-old homeless man was sentenced to 17 years in state prison Feb. 27 for stabbing another homeless man in an abandoned house in Port Jefferson Station last summer, according to a spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. Alain Jean pleaded guilty to first-degree assault. He told police he confronted the victim, Joseph Panettiere, 23, because he believed Panettiere was spreading rumors about him. On June 11, 2016, Jean shot the victim four times with a .22 caliber pistol leaving him seriously wounded.

In addition to sentencing the defendant, Judge Timothy Mazzei issued a permanent order of protection for the victim.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, Jean shot the then 22-year-old victim multiple times shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Union Street, which is between Hallock Avenue and Route 25A, and the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Port Jefferson Station.

Panettiere was treated for serious injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Police Second Squad detectives are investigating a shooting that took place at Melissa’s Restaurant in Huntington Station this past Saturday, Oct. 22.

Second Precinct patrol officers responded to a shot spotter activation, which is technology used to detect when shots are fired, at the restaurant, on New York Ave. at 2:16 a.m. Several patrons reported hearing shots, shell casings were recovered and police determined shots were fired. Police said the suspect was described as an Hispanic male wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt pulled tightly around his face.

The investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information about the incident to call the Second Squad at 631-854-8252 or call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

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