WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 (JTA) Just seven miles from the fire-ravaged Pentagon, nearly 1,500 local Jews pitted the power of prayer against the power of terror.
The group gathered Thursday at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington for a memorial service to the victims of Tuesday’s terror acts in New York and Washington.
At least 175 people are believed to have died in the Pentagon when terrorists steered a hijacked jetliner into the symbol of American military might. In New York, where two hijacked planes brought down the World Trade Center’s twin towers, the death toll is expected to be in the thousands.
Prayer and reflection were the main sentiments of the prayer vigil along with a call for justice.
“We must act forcefully,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. To place the blame on Israel is a “deception,” he added.
Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg said the world now better understands the anguish and pain Israel suffers from frequent Palestinian terrorism.
“Peace, peace, but there is no peace,” Wohlberg quoted from the Prophet Jeremiah.
Many people were in tears, but their desire for some sort of justice was palpable.
A united reading of Psalm 94 which includes a call for the “God of retribution” to appear was thundering.
“Judgment shall again accord with justice and all the upright shall rally to it,” participants read. “He will make their evil recoil upon them, annihilate them through their own wickedness; the Lord our God will annihilate them.”
Participants chanted the El Maleh Rachamim prayer for those killed in the terror strikes, and sang a prayer for peace and “God Bless America.”
The American flag and Israeli flag stood at the front of the synagogue sanctuary, a memorial candle between them.
Just as American leaders have shown solidarity with Israel after tragedies there, Israeli Ambassador David Ivry said he came to the memorial service in Washington with a “saddened soul.”
Israel stands “hand in hand with America in its time of hardship,” Ivry said.
Ivry said the United States and Israel would forever remain partners in the quest for peace. He noted that incitement and hatred brought about the attacks in New York and Washington.
“The power of words has become more dangerous than the power of weapons,” he said.
Saperstein bemoaned that not enough was being done to stop terror. Like many in the audience, he called upon the nations of the world to come together in a common fight against terrorism.
“There is so much the world could have done to stand up to terrorism,” he said. “We have failed to learn the lessons of our history.”