Mandeville rabbi remembers Newtown as rural, peaceful

Rabbi John Nimon, of Mandeville, remembers Newtown, Conn. as a peaceful, rural community where everyone turned out at the town square for fall festivals and the synagogue he served, Congregation Adath Israel, stood next to a cornfield.

“It’s the last place in the country that you would think that violence would take place,’’ he said.

But violence came to Newtown on Friday when Adam Lanza killed his mother and attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 first-graders and six adults at the school before taking his own life. And Adath Israel, where Nimon was rabbi in the late 1980s, was the scene of a funeral yesterday for 6-year-old Noah Pozner, the youngest of the victims. His two sisters, one of them his twin, survived the attack.

Nimon said that he does not know the Pozner family. The synagogue, which was established 100 years ago, has grown since his time there, he said. The congregation is now housed in a new building, where the cornfield used to be.

Nimon said he has been glued to news coverage of the deaths there, particularly a prayer vigil that was attended by President Barack Obama. He said he was struck by the obvious closeness among clergy of different faiths as they spoke, often with their arms around each other.

His days in Connecticut, where he lived from 1976 until moving to Mandeville in 2009, had been on his mind before the shootings. Another synagogue he had served, in Stratford, Conn., had sent a menorah to Northlake Jewish Congregation. That town is in the same county as Newtown, and he had been planning to talk about the gift at Friday services.

He did, but the message ended up being more poignant. He told his congregation that he hoped the menorah would be put up in the synagogue and “when we look up at the lights, we’ll always think about the lights that were extinguished in Connecticut,’’ he said.

Nimon said that he hopes the events in Connecticut will spur clergy in Mandeville to come together to talk about violence and related issues.

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