For the dozens of Hasidic Jewish families who had settled in Jersey City over the past few years, the JC Kosher Supermarket served as a community hub.
It was the sole kosher grocery store in the area, stocking Kedem grape juice, canned vegetables and candy. The store’s popular deli counter was run by a young couple — among the first to relocate to Jersey City from the Satmar Hasidic neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in search of more affordable housing and a bit of open space.
The couple, Leah Mindel Ferencz, 33, and Moishe Duvid Ferencz, owned the store together. Mrs. Ferencz would stay behind when her husband ducked out to pray at the small synagogue next door each day at around lunch time.
It was at precisely such a moment on Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Ferencz’s mother said, when two people wielding guns rushed toward the store and began firing.
At least one customer escaped as the attack began, said Shimon Goldberger, who witnessed the onslaught. Another customer was grazed by bullets but survived.
Mrs. Ferencz, the mother of three children, was killed in the attack, which law enforcement officials said on Wednesday had specifically targeted the kosher grocery. Also killed were Moshe Deutsch, a 24-year-old rabbinical student who lived in Brooklyn and had been shopping at the store, and a Latino store worker, Miguel Douglas, 49.
Joseph Seals, a police detective assigned to a task force whose mission was to remove guns from the Jersey City streets, was killed before the market attack in a cemetery, when he confronted the assailants, identified by police as David Anderson and Francine Graham.
Mr. and Mrs. Ferencz had met through a matchmaker in Monroe, N.Y., and the couple had lived for some time in Brooklyn, Mr. Ferencz’s mother, Victoria Ferencz, said in an interview. A few years ago, the couple moved to Jersey City, where they purchased the grocery.
They had grown to like their new hometown and were well-known in the neighborhood, Victoria Ferencz said. She described her daughter-in-law as a wonderful mother and wife who liked to help others.
“I’ve cried my eyes out already, I’m feeling pretty broken,” she said on Wednesday after hearing the news of Ms. Ferencz’s death from Jewish community media reports. “I feel sorry for my son. She’s going to heaven, but he and his children will have it hard.”
Jairo Casado, who worked at the kosher supermarket for about eight months last year, remembers the Ferenczes as a polite couple whose priorities were always their family, their faith and their business.
“They treated all employees with the most respect,” Mr. Casado, 26, said. “Always offering extra money for side jobs, always offering to take me home. Just great people all around.”
Rabbi David Niederman, the executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, a major Satmar community organization, said that the couple’s decision to open a grocery store in Jersey City helped “pave the way for a new community.”
“She was a lady full of love for others, and unfortunately her life was cut short,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Mr. Deutsch had been following in the footsteps of his father, Abraham Deutsch, a well-known figure in the broader Satmar Hasidic community who organizes a large food drive each year before the Jewish holiday of Passover, Rabbi Niederman said.
Mr. Deutsch studied at a new yeshiva that he had helped establish and get off the ground, Rabbi Niederman said. A Twitter post by Chai Lifeline, an international children’s health support network, showed a picture of Mr. Deutsch smiling while participating in a bicycle ride fund-raiser for the organization.
Rabbi Niederman said at the news conference that Mr. Deutsch’s body had been found riddled with bullets. “Can you imagine, a few hundred bullets went into the body of a 24-year-old child,” he said, breaking into tears. “How can we as a community bear that?”
The deaths shocked the tight-knit Hasidic community, locally and globally. Throughout the night, people shared information about the attack and its victims via messaging platforms like WhatsApp. Additional security was deployed at Jewish sites in New York City and New Jersey. On Wednesday, in Williamsburg, a truck pulled up outside of a Satmar community girls school to deliver a security booth to be posted outside its entrance.
Hasidic Jews had begun arriving in the largely African-American neighborhood of Greenville in Jersey City about five years ago, as part of a broader expansion into areas outside Brooklyn. In Jersey City, they bought a scattering of faded but roomy wood-framed rowhouses at prices that were less than half of what homes of similar size would cost in New York, The Times reported in 2017.
While the new community in Jersey City largely got along with its neighbors, there was some tension over real estate speculation by Orthodox Jewish investors, who would knock on local residents’ doors and offer to buy their houses, community leaders then said.
The mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop, said at the time that his town took pride in its diversity, but that he had been concerned about “very aggressive solicitation.”
“They literally go door to door and can be very pushy trying to purchase someone’s house,” Mr. Fulop had said then. “It’s not the best way to endear yourself to the community, and there’s been a lot of pushback.”
There had also been a zoning fight over the small synagogue and religious school on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive that the Hasidic community had opened up next to the kosher market. At least 40 elementary aged boys now attend the school. On Tuesday, they were trapped there on lockdown for hours amid the shooting.
Over time, familiarity among the area’s different cultures began to build, residents said. There were discussions on sidewalks and over backyard fences about dog ownership — unfamiliar to Hasidic families — and child rearing. The Ferenczes gave out candy from the kosher market to neighborhood children on Halloween. There had been no acts of violence.
“We have about 100 families,” said one Hasidic resident who answered the phone at the community’s small synagogue on Tuesday evening and asked to be identified by only his first name, Mark. “We have schools for boys and girls, and a kosher grocery and deli. We have a very peaceful, beautiful life. And then, all of a sudden, this happened.”
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