(JTA) — The three congregations targeted in last week’s deadly attack on their shared synagogue building met separately and behind closed doors on Friday night, while around the Jewish world tens of thousands of Jews and people of all faiths flocked to synagogues on Shabbat in solidarity with the Pittsburgh Jewish community.
Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light congregations held private Friday night services in host congregations because their building remains a crime scene after the shooting on the morning of Oct. 27, which left 11 worshipers from all three congregations dead.
On Shabbat morning, an overflow crowd described as larger than a Yom Kippur service crowded into the Beth Shalom sanctuary in suburban Pittsburgh. Rabbi Jeff Myers of Tree of Life congregation, who survived last Saturday’s attack while taking shelter in a closet, spoke at the service. The survivors of the attack stood on the bima and recited the Gomel blessing, for someone who has lived through a dangerous experience.
At 9:52, the crowd observed a silence of one minute and 11 seconds, marking the time that Myers made the first call to 911 to report the attack.
Hundreds of people also gathered outside the Tree of Life building on Saturday morning for an impromptu prayer service and vigil under overcast skies and rain. The prayers, songs and poetry were led by former Tree of Life Rabbi Chuck Diamond.
A day earlier, Myers welcomed to Pittsburgh the pastor of the African-American church in Charleston, S.C., where nine parishioners were shot to death in a racist attack in 2015. The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church read from Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd…”) at the funeral Friday for 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, the oldest of the victims.
Many of the gatherings throughout the country on Saturday morning were part of the #ShowUpforShabbat solidarity initiative by the American Jewish Committee, and backed by other Jewish groups across the religious spectrum.
In Philadelphia, people of all faiths turned out for services and other observances Friday night and Saturday at congregations throughout the city, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. At Shabbat services at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel, City Councilman Allan Domb, on behalf of Mayor Jim Kenney and his Council colleagues, read a citation of remembrance for the Pittsburgh victims and for unity against a “historic” rise in anti-Semitism.
More than 800 people filled the sanctuary at B’nai Jeshurun, a Conservative congregation in suburban Cleveland, located less than a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh. The number of congregants in attendance was more than three times the number that show up on a regular Shabbat morning. B’nai Jeshurun’s Rabbi Stephen Weiss was joined by clergy from across Greater Cleveland who came to show support for the shaken Jewish community.
In the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield, Catholic, Christian and Muslim religious leaders stood with Rabbi Michael Moskowitz as he led an interfaith prayer at Temple Shir Shalom in what was billed as a Shabbat of Solidarity.
In Anchorage, Alaska, residents of various faiths gathered at the Alaska Jewish Campus to show their solidarity with the victims and survivors of the Pittsburgh shooting. “It was focused on love and acceptance and solidarity,” attendee Nikole DeSanto told TV station KTUU, “to come together at times of horror and at times of terrorism.”
In Minneapolis, St. Joan of Arc Community, a Catholic congregation, sent dozens of its congregants to Shir Tikvah, a Reform synagogue, for a candlelight vigil before Friday night service in which the victims were remembered. “We are here to be your light in the darkness,” Julie Madden, a lay staffer at the church, told the arriving Jewish worshippers as the passed through what the the Star Tribune described as a protective circle. “A tragedy that befalls any faith community affects all of us.”
In Teaneck, New Jersey, home to more than 20 mostly Orthodox synagogues, the township’s mayor, Mohammed Hameeduddin, visited as many congregations as he could on Shabbat morning. At Congregation Beth Sholom, a Conservative synagogue, Hameeduddin, who is Muslim, and other township officials assured worshippers that the local police had increased security in all local houses of worship and that the township was coordinating security with county, state and federal authorities.
In South Florida, Rabbi Michael Gold, who spent six years at a synagogue in suburban Pittsburgh before coming to Temple Beth Torah Sha’aray Tzedek in Tamarac, read the names of the dead and injured. His congregation observed a moment of silence during Shabbat morning services, while the building was guarded by two Broward Sheriff’s deputies and a private security guard.
“We Jews don’t emphasize death, we emphasize life,” he said, adding, “And yet, every now and again someone appears out of the darkness who believes in death rather than life.”