In wake of Pittsburgh shooting, hundreds gather in unity at Jewish center in Woodbridge
Hundreds of local residents came together Sunday in anger and pain, love and fellowship to honor those wounded and killed while they worshiped at Temple of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
People filled the Vine Family Auditorium at the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven, sitting and standing shoulder to shoulder, spilling out into the hall, to be part in a vigil called in the wake of Saturday’s shooting, which saw 11 people killed and six wounded .
Again and again during the proceedings, speakers called for those in attendance to gather themselves in the face of hatred and violence and live in the name of unity, love and peace.
The appeals came from rabbis from across the region.
“We are united in our grief; but we are also united in our hope. We Jewish people have survived for 4,000 years because in the face of every horror that the world has thrown at us, we have believed in our ideals, and we have believed in the promise of humanity — and we still do, and we always will,” said Rabbi Benjamin Scolnic of Temple Beth Shalom in Hamden. “Life will win. The haters and the murderers will lose. Life will win.”
“By gathering in support, we strengthen each other. We declare that nothing can tear us apart,” said Rabbi Brian Immerman of Temple Mishkan Israel in Hamden. “God, the god of all generations, strengthen our resolve to love each other with a whole heart. May you always shine down upon our community — the light of hope, the light of joy, the light of comfort. Spread over us your shelter of shalom — your shelter of peace.”
“Times of tragedy bring out the best in us. But I urge us all that we have the responsibility to bring out the best in ourselves during times of joy, during times of happiness, during times of celebration. Come together in good times to strengthen each other then, to overcome the forces of evil,” said Rabbi Fred Hyman of Westville Synagogue in New Haven. “God will give us strength; but we also give strength to one another.”
“The killer’s bullets were aimed at every Jew the world over,” said Rabbi Sheya Hecht of Chabad of Orange, “just absolute hate, for no reason at all. And the antidote to senseless hatred is two words: wanton love.”
“It is a straight line from Charlottesville to the demonization of George Soros to Pittsburgh,” said Rabbi Rona Shapiro of Congregation B’nai Jacob of Woodbridge. “Things like this will happen when we allow hatred to be a part of our discourse — when it becomes OK to hate people with which you disagree, or look different than we do.
“We cannot let fear rob us of our essential values. So please, go to your synagogues, fill the pews — let the haters know that we are not afraid. Speak out against anti-Semitism and support those organizations that support your beliefs — speak up for gun control; work to give refugees safe harbor,” said Shapiro. “ Know we are all responsible for our public discourse — for how we speak to one another, the language we use and the language we countenance. Let us make sure our speech is worthy of the people who gave their lives this Shabbat.”
“We all know we want to be good people,” said Rabbi Micah Ellenson of Temple Beth David in Cheshire. “But knowing is not half the battle. Doing is the battle... rising above our baser instincts is the battle. And we have to continue to show love; we have to continue to shine light into dark places.”
The rabbis were joined by leaders from other faiths.
“Let your light shine in a time of darkness,” said said Rev. Steven Cousins of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “You are not alone. And, as hard as it is, love your neighbor as you would love yourselves. It’s not just grief that brought us here, but it’s the love we have for each other that (makes) us come together and stand as one. Let your light shine. That way, we can proudly proclaim that we will not stand for another senseless tragedy in our country.”
“Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hatred and bigotry are contradictory to our American values. As a nation, we are stronger united, not divided,” said Fatma Antar of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut. “Through love and compassion, we can overcome violence and guns.”
“Friends, we gather tonight in mourning and in grief,” said Rev. Megan Lloyd Joiner of the Unitarian Society of New Haven. “And if we are honest, we might admit that in the recesses of our heart, we feel also fear and perhaps even despair. But let us not forget that we who are here tonight join with others around the country and around the world. And we are people of courage and steadfast determination. We are determined not to let fear destroy that which we hold sacred...”
And, finally, the support came from all in attendance, which sang “Olam Chesed Yibane” to conclude the evening, including: “I will build this world with love / And you must build this world from love / And if we build this world from love / Then God will build this world from love.”