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Vigils Across US for Pittsburgh Shooting Victims Express Defiance & Grief

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Reaction to the horrendous shootings in Pittsburgh has been swift across the Jewish landscape, with prayer vigils and statements of unity helping to ease the pain of the event and alleviate tensions. Photo Credit: The State News

Reaction to the horrendous shootings in Pittsburgh has been swift across the Jewish landscape, with prayer vigils and statements of unity helping to ease the pain of the event and alleviate tensions.

In Pittsburgh, more than 3,000 people from the community turned out on Saturday night for an interfaith candlelight vigil of Hebrew and English songs and hymns to honor the 11 victims of the mass shooting earlier in the day at a Squirrel Hill synagogue, reported the city’s Post-Gazette.

“As the Jewish Sabbath ended at sundown, students from Allderdice High School who organized the vigil, led the gathering at the intersection of Murray and Forbes avenues with a “prayer for healing,” the paper reported.

In Madison, WI, people of all faiths met, filling the seats, floor balcony and hallways of the First Unitarian Society’s meeting house. Among the hundreds who came to honor the victims in the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, WKOW reported, “Patricia Putney said she came to do a little healing herself. “This is not a Jewish issue,” she said. “This is a much bigger issue and we need to all stand together. This could have been me. This could have been my kids.”

“In a week filled with acts of hate-filled violence in our country, we want you to know that you are welcome,” Rev. Doug Watkins of Madison’s First Unitarian Society said, addressing the crowd.

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris called on Jewish communities across the country—along with elected officials, religious and civic leaders, and other communal allies—to flock to synagogues this coming Shabbat (Friday night and Saturday, November 2-3) in a nationwide campaign named #ShowUpForShabbat.

American Jewish Congress, President Jack Rosen released a statement saying, in part, “In the shadow of the still-unfolding tragedy in Pittsburgh, I write today with grave concern for American Jews and indeed for the soul of America. As President of the one of the oldest and most prominent organizations dedicated to the issues and interests of American Jews, I have written too many messages of condolence and solidarity to ethnic and religious groups that have been the targets of the increasing hatred and violence gripping our nation.

I have issued too many unheeded warnings about creeping anti-Semitism in our politics and discourse. Our nation is in danger. The survival and success of the Jewish people to whom the American Jewish Congress is devoted is not an end it itself, it is but an example of the American idea of tolerance and diversity at work. It is this very idea that was threatened in Pittsburgh. It is this very idea that was threatened in Charlottesville, in Charleston, and everywhere unchecked racial and religious intolerance has spilled into its inescapable outcome: violence.”

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America expressed their deepest sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives in the horrific murders that took place during Shabbat services at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh.

“We pray for the speedy recovery of those injured in the shooting”, the organizations wrote in a joint declaration, “including the brave police officers who rushed directly into the active crime scene.”

“This senseless act of anti-Semitic violence was not only an egregious attack on the Jewish community, but an attack on the very foundations of civil society and our collective democratic values,” said Allen Fagin, the Orthodox Union’s executive vice president.

“Our hearts break for the senseless murder of our fellow Jews and all victims of vicious hate crimes,” said Moishe Bane, president of the Orthodox Union. “We condemn the dangerous rhetoric that foments such senseless violence and we stand with the Tree of Life Congregation and the whole Pittsburgh community at this terrible time.”

In a statement sent to the media via e-mail, the Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim said of the Pittsburgh tragedy: “With profound sorrow and grief, we extend our boundless expressions of support and solidarity to the victims, their families, and the survivors of the brutal, horrendous attack that took place this Sabbath morning at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We commend the brave members of the Pittsburgh Police Department and first–responders who rushed to aid the injured and to courageously contain the appalling and evil carnage perpetrated by a malevolent and hateful individual seeking to murder innocent people gathered in celebration of faith, life and community.”

The Rabbinical Alliance of America (RAA) — Igud HaRabbonim, with a membership of over 950 Orthodox Rabbis across the United States and Canada — calls upon all people of goodwill to unite in prayer to our Creator beseeching His protection and to increase in acts of charity and loving-kindness to help heal our fractured society. Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht, Chairman of the RAA presidium, asks all member rabbis to call for additional prayers to be recited immediately at all prayer services for the healing of the injured amongst the civilian and police.

Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, Executive Vice President of the RAA, stated that, “A hate attack on anyone is an attack on all of society. All decent people must come together to condemn such evil.” May the One who makes peace in the Heavenly heights make peace upon us and upon all Israel, Amen.

AIPAC, Israel’s largest and most influential lobby in the United States said in a statement: “We are appalled by the horrific anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We mourn for the precious lives that were lost and we pray for the recovery of those who were wounded by the demented gunman. We salute the courage of the law enforcement officers and other first responders who prevented the further loss of life.

Sadly, today’s slaughter does not stand alone as representing the scourge of anti-Semitism. Throughout the world, we are witnessing the alarming rise of hatred directed against Jews and Jewish institutions.

All good people must unite against this deeply disturbing trend. While we mourn today, we must work tomorrow and every day against this senseless hatred and violence.

Our prayers are with the victims and their families and the congregants of the Tree of Life Synagogue.”

By Howard M. Riell

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