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Local knitters join movement for Pittsburgh synagogue victims

Isaac Kantor, 4 months, accompanies his mother, Kim,

Isaac Kantor, 4 months, accompanies his mother, Kim, of Oceanside, at right, during a community event at Knit Long Island in Roslyn on Sunday.  Credit: Johnny Milano

A group of Long Island knitters gathered in Roslyn on Sunday to send their love and sympathy to the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh the best way they know how — via their knitting needles and bundles of yarn.

The two dozen women at the Old Northern Boulevard store Knit Long Island will create an Afghan featuring Jewish imagery in honor of the shooting victims. The event was part of a worldwide movement of knitters doing the same as a response to the Oct. 27 shooting when a gunman walked into the synagogue during Shabbat morning services and opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring seven.

The Roslyn knitters each crafted a 9-by-8.5-inch square featuring the Star of David or the Tree of Life symbol using a cashmere and merino wool blend donated by Great Neck-based yarn supplier Knitting Fever. Store owner Cheryl Levanhar will continue to collect squares until Friday and plans to sew them into a blanket to be delivered to a Pittsburgh-area knitting shop, Yarns By Design, on Dec. 1.

“This is a very Jewish community, and there are a lot of people who were touched by [the synagogue shooting] on a religious level,” said Levanhar, who is Jewish.

The movement began with social media posts by Yarns By Design a day after the shooting asking for squares as a show of solidarity. Posts on knitting social media site show that knitters from around the globe answered the call.

“I don’t think that store in Pittsburgh has any idea what they’ve taken on,” Levanhar said.

Knitter Kim Kantor, 35, of Oceanside, said this is not the first time her knitting has paired with an event of national note. She knitted pink hats for the Women’s March in January 2017.

The latest craft is also an inherently giving act, appropriate for sending positivity to a shattered community, she said.

“Knitters love making stuff for people. Once you have your own hat and glove set, it’s like “OK, who else needs one,’  ” said Kantor, an Orthodox Jew. “And while you’re knitting, you’re thinking about that person.”

The Old Northern Boulevard store is a hangout where knitters, including widows and retirees, gather to talk, snack and create. One square can take up to six hours to complete, Levanhar noted, but the labor is part of the gift.

“It’s a way to show my love,” said Patti Morgese, 54, of Garden City, a frequent patron of the store, who is not of the Jewish faith. “It’s a horrific thing that happened, and if this can bring just a little peace to someone’s heart … it’s a wonderful thing.”

Beverly Osrow, 81, of Great Neck agreed.

“Not that this is going to change anything,” she said, “but it’s an expression of how people feel.”

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