In a night of singing, prayer and solidarity across faiths, local religious leaders spoke to the need to embrace peoples’ shared humanity and community to rise above bigotry and the tragedy it caused as the Williamsburg-area faith community mourned the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting Monday.
Eleven people were killed in a shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh during worship services Saturday morning. The gunman expressed anti-Semitic sentiments during the shooting and after his arrest by police. Six people were injured, including four police officers, the Associated Press reported.
“We gather together to mourn the 11 souls who died on Saturday morning at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and pray for the six who were injured. These were regular people going about their lives,” Temple Beth El Rabbi David Katz said. “Although this moment may seem precarious, I’m confident that we’ll come together as a unified community, as a unified Jewish community, both locally and globally. We can all find the strength and support needed to get through this.”
Katz spoke in front of at least a couple hundred people who filled out the seats of the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists sanctuary. More people stood in the back of the room and yet more people sat in overflow seating outside the sanctuary, watching the vigil on television screens. The venue itself was a symbol of interfaith community friendship. The worshipers of Temple Beth El have used the space for their own services when the occasion calls for a larger space than their temple. And now, it served to bring communities literally under one roof.
The show of support was familiar to Laura Horton-Ludwig, the reverend of the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists.
“I remember 10 years ago in 2008 there was a shooting that affected a congregation of the tradition I serve and I remember during that time amidst the shock and sadness, through all of that, I was so comforted by the way that people from fellow congregations … clergy, everybody expressed concern,” she said. “So now it is time to pay it forward.”
Speakers’ remarks were interspersed with prayers, songs and psalms. Love, and its ability to bind people together and provide strength, was a recurring theme.
Fred Liggin, reverend of the Williamsburg Christian Church, spoke of the power of a certain type of love envisioned as a form of protest and a source of strength against hatred.
“It’s the kind of love desperately needed in the face of the unmitigated evil called white supremacy and anti-semitism,” Liggin said. “We will not let fear move us to concession. Love must be our protest.”
Elizabeth Krome, one of the people standing in the audience, came to the church to support the Jewish community.
“The need to be in solidarity with the Jewish people who are dealing with his,” Krome said when asked why she attended the vigil.
The shooting hit close to home for Krome. A lifelong friend of Krome’s moved from Williamsburg to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, where the Tree of Life Synagogue is located, and attended services at the synagogue.
“We went to her daughter’s bat mitzvah there,” Krome said. “She’s OK but her community is just in unspeakable grief.”
Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.