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2,000 mourn Brussels victims at silent vigil

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Adults and children participating in a silent vigil outside the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels for the four victims of a shooting there by an unidentified gunman, May 25, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

Adults and children participating in a silent vigil outside the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels for the four victims of a shooting there by an unidentified gunman, May 25, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

BRUSSELS (JTA) — A crowd of approximately 2,000 gathered for a silent vigil in front of the Jewish museum in Brussels where an unidentified shooter killed four people.

The gathering on Sunday came 24 hours after the shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in the center of the country’s capital.

Prime Minister Elio di Rupo was among the Belgian politicians who cleared time to attend the vigil on Election Day.

“Elections are usually a celebration for democracy, but this year that celebration is in the shadow by this terrorist attack,” he said later that day at a news conference. “My thoughts go out to the Jewish community and their families.”

At the vigil, many lit candles in memory of the four victims and placed flowers and Israeli and Belgian flags at the museum’s entrance.

Two of the victims were an Israeli couple on vacation. Emanuel and Miriam Riva of Tel Aviv, both in their 50s, were shot in the head and died instantly, as did Dominique Chabrier, a French volunteer at the museum.

A fourth fatality was identified as Alexandre Strens, a museum employee in his 20s. Strens died in the hospital hours after he was shot.

“It is good to hear the Belgian politicians sharing their outrage at this Saturday’s attack,” said Robin Sclafani, director of CEJI, a Jewish Brussels-based not-for-profit which promotes tolerance through education. ”I hope they can finally hear the alarm this time for what is a wake-up call that has been snoozed too many times already.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, or EJA, called on European governments to set up a pan-European task force to fight anti-Semitism.

“Condemnation after a predictable attack is nothing but a way to cleanse one’s conscious” unless it is accompanied by concrete actions, he said.

Also Sunday, police released security camera footage of the perpetrator entering the museum with an automatic assault rifle and asked for the public’s help in locating him and other accomplices, including a driver who drove him to the museum in an Audi.

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