The small ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Greenville, Jersey City, consists of only around 100 families, a few schools, and a kosher market.
So when a shooting erupted at JC Kosher Supermarket on Tuesday — killing four people in what officials have described as an anti-Semitic hate crime — it struck directly in the heart of the close-knit community.
Mindy Ferencz, 31, who owned the supermarket with her husband, died, as did her cousin, 24-year-old Moshe Deutsch, who was visiting from Williamsburg. A worker at the supermarket, 49-year-old Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, was also killed as he tried to escape. Deutsch's other cousin, Chaim, was shot and injured.
Police Detective Joseph Seals, a father of five, was the first to be killed on Tuesday after approaching the shooters at a nearby cemetery while on patrol. He was described as a modest and mostly quiet family man.
“He was a great family man,” a neighbor, Joseph Vuocolo, told NorthJersey.com. “He had a wonderful wife and was a good father. Believe me, if he was a bum, I’d tell you he was a bum. But he was a really great guy.”
Greenville's ultra-Orthodox community functions like a satellite post to the larger Hasidic communities in Williamsburg, a 30-minute drive away for those who have been priced out of Brooklyn's expensive real estate but want to stay close to family.
The Ferencz family was part of the first wave of ultra-Orthodox families to move from Williamsburg to Jersey City around four years ago in search of more affordable housing, and quickly opened the supermarket.
"They came out here to find a place to set up their homes and set up their families and really establish their roots there," Shmuel Levitin said.
Levitin, a rabbi, lives in another part of Jersey City but attends the Greenville synagogue, Congregation Adath Greenville, for morning prayers daily. He regularly shops in the supermarket, which shares a wall with the synagogue, and had become friendly with the shop owners, Moshe and Mindy Ferencz (also known as Mindel). Moshe had left the store to pray next door just minutes before the shooting began, but Mindy stayed behind to work.
"She was always around the store, helping out," said Levitin, who runs Chabad Young Professionals of Hoboken and Jersey City. "She was very sweet, always a cheerful demeanor, and it’s a real tragedy."
In a blog post, the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn called her "a pioneer."
"She was a caring and nurturing mother for her three children, and at the same time helped her husband who ran the first kosher grocery in the area, to ensure that the community’s families [could] shop and feed their children," the post said.
The small supermarket stocked fresh produce, kosher grocery items, and a sandwich station.
Rodriguez, the Ecuadorian immigrant store worker who was killed, was known for his friendliness to his Jewish customers.
"I interacted with him many times," Levitin said. "Dedicated to his job and very nice, mild-mannered."
Rodriguez had been working at the store for about a year before the incident, according to a GoFundMe page set up by his family.
"Douglas Rodriguez came to this country for better life with his wife and daughter," the family said. "He was a devoted husband, friend, and father. He was a God-loving, honest and hard-working person was who always available to help others."
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal initially identified Rodriguez as Miguel Douglas but later clarified his full name, adding that he went by Miguel Rodriguez.
Levitin spoke to BuzzFeed News while standing outside the scene of the attack the day after the shooting. He intermittently stopped the interview to thank those leaving the synagogue for coming out in support.
"People are reeling," he said.
On Tuesday night, he spoke with Ferencz's husband and praised his "strength and faith and resilience" after the news of his wife's death and visited Chaim Deutsch, who was injured in the attack.
Greenville's population is around 50% black, 18% Latino, and 15% Asian, according to US census data compiled by Statistical Atlas.
"Generally, the community gets along very well with their non-Jewish community neighbors," said Levitin, describing long-term residents as "always nice and welcoming."
Rabbi David Niederman, the executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, told BuzzFeed News it was "the worst day of my life."
On Wednesday, he visited his close friends, the Deutsch family, to grieve the loss of their son, Moshe.
"They are devastated," he told BuzzFeed News. "It is only faith that is keeping them."
He described Deutsch, who was one of eight children, as "a wonderful kid" from a close-knit family.
"That family home is open to anyone who wants to eat, or stay over a Sabbath, or a holiday. This is what the family is, this is what Moshe is," he said. "It’s a family loss, it’s a community loss."
His father, Abe Deutsch, is a well-known community leader in Brooklyn and United Jewish Organizations board member. Abe often helps register members of the Hasidic community to vote, and Brooklyn politicians tweeted their condolences about his son's death.
"Moshe followed in his father’s footsteps and devoted his spare time and energy to help organize the UJO Passover food distribution and many other acts of kindness," the UJO said in a statement.
Niederman said that after news of the shooting first broke, someone called Abe to suggest he head to Greenville to comfort the family, unaware that his son was involved.
"If this had happened to someone else, one of the first people you would call would be his father," a member of Williamsburg's Hasidic community who attended yeshiva with Deutsch and wished to remain anonymous told BuzzFeed News.
He described Deutsch as "a very kind guy, very talented and friendly ... always trying to help every body."
A photo posted on Twitter by a Williamsburg business showed Deutsch helping another man wrap tefillin, traditional black leather straps that are wrapped around the hands and head during prayer.
Deutsch also volunteered at Chai Lifeline, an international health care support organization. "He was very beloved amongst the staff and the children he helped," David Fox, the director of the crisis intervention and trauma department at Chai Lifeline, told BuzzFeed News.
He explained that Deutsch helped volunteer in programs for ill children and their siblings, as well as participating in bike marathons run by the organization.
On the three floors above the Greenville synagogue is a yeshiva, an Orthodox school where a few hundred boys huddled, terrified, in a lockdown during the shooting.
"They did not know what was happening," Fox said. "They were inundated with gunshot sounds, sirens, police bullhorns. ... They were there for hours. Their parents had no idea whether their children were alive still."
Chai Lifeline sent a team of around 30 Hasidic volunteers to Greenville on Tuesday night to speak with children, parents, and teachers — who Fox said were "deeply traumatized" — and they stayed until after midnight dispensing advice on how to answer questions from children about the attack and handle their own trauma.
The yeshiva classmate said he'd spoken with the family of Chaim Deutsch, Moshe's cousin, who was injured.
He said the family told him Chaim did not see the shooters but felt a bullet and started running to the backyard. The store worker, Rodriguez, ran to open the back door but was shot and killed. Chaim was the only one to escape, jumping over a fence and running into a non-Jewish building to call for help.
The horrific anti-Semitic attack shocked, but did not surprise, the Jewish leaders.
"It’s something our people have experienced for millennia," Levitin said.
He described the recent rise of anti-Semitism and hate crimes the final push from the losing side in "a battle of good versus evil, light over darkness."
"This is a massacre," said Niederman, who called on federal, state, and local leaders to more seriously address the rise of anti-Semitism. "Here's a community asking questions: Why did that happen? What did we do wrong? Why do they hate us?"
The story was updated with the Attorney General's correction of Douglas Miguel Rodriguez's full name.