LAKEWOOD >> Two days after an anti-Semitic gunman walked into Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue and killed 11 worshippers while injuring several more, the pews in Congregation Shir Chadash were filled with people of all faiths, crying as they sang “God Bless America” in unison.
The song was a fitting close for a Monday, Oct. 29, service that at once mourned those who were killed in what the Anti-Defamation League called the deadliest attack on Jews in the nation’s history, and also sought a path toward creating a more peaceful, loving country.
“We are now going to have to figure out how to live with this scar,” Rabbi Mariana Gindlin, (pictured right) who led the evening’s service, said. “The scar of this horrendous tragedy that has happened only the day before yesterday, while we were praying on our most sacred day, our Sabbath. This anti-Semitic episode does not belong to our past. No, it belongs to our present, and it is today that we have to process it.”
The beginning of the path toward processing the tragedy, Gindlin said, was to honor the victims, “who were slaughtered for being Jewish,” she said. To do so, Marla Weisenfeld and Sam Schulman each took turns reading the names of each, along with a description of their lives and their abrupt deaths. The pair lit a candle for each:
Local government and faith leaders also came to pay their respects and show support for the Jewish community. Lakewood Mayor Steve Croft (pictured right) was in attendance, along with a spokesman for State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ Bishop Jim Greer and the Islamic Center of Long Beach’s Imam Tarek Mohamed.
“To our Jewish brothers and sisters: You are not alone,” Croft said. “Your community is standing with you, and this is a terrible tragedy for all of our communities, when we can’t even feel safe in our own houses of faith.”
Mohamed also offered words of solidarity. He said of those who spread hate, “We’re going to fight to the end. We fight you by love and compassion, to teach the world what the meaning of peace and mercy is.”
Greer emphasized the strength that comes with unity. But he also said the importance of individual actions, including voting, cannot be overstated.
“We call on all people of faith to vote in this election,” Greer said. “Prayerfully consider how each candidate, each party and each issue views and treats the least among us, the outcast and the believer. Good cannot come from evil. Any political movement or candidate that uses hate, division or fear to motivate, is not of God. Reject hate. Reject violence. Reject evil.”
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