Northeast Ohio Jewish Community Mourns Pittsburgh Shooting Victims

Religious leaders light candles to remember the 11 people killed in the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Religious leaders light candles to remember the 11 people killed in the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

Mourners gathered Monday night at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood to remember those killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Public officials, Jewish religious leaders and clergy of other faiths expressed sympathy for the families of the shooting victims, urging the congregants to confront violence and anti-Semitism.  

“We cannot stand silently by as hatred and bigotry grow daily,” Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said. “This weekend’s murders, though fueled by hatred against Jews, should raise the alarm for every minority, every person in America.”

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish bows his head during a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

The suspect, Robert Bowers, made a first appearance in court on Monday. He faces federal hate crime charges. Bowers is alleged to have written anti-Semitic posts on social media before the shooting.  

Hundreds filled the Stonehill auditorium at the community center, with overflow seating at the nearby Temple-Tifereth Israel. Organizers said more than 1,500 people attended in all.

Together, a group of Northeast Ohio rabbis lit 11 candles to commemorate the shooting victims and led the congregation in prayer.  

“We are all here to represent us, to support each other, to know that as one Jewish community, we stand strong, we stand strong always,” Rabbi Allison Vann of Suburban Temple-Kol Ami said.  

Anti-Defamation League regional director Jeremy Pappas draped a Pittsburgh Steelers “terrible towel” over the lectern before he spoke.

He said that he was in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood after the shooting and heard a young boy ask his mother, “Is that the place where all the people were killed just because they went to shul?”

The boy, Pappas said, was right.

“Those 11 people were killed because they were Jewish and they went to synagogue on a Saturday morning,” Pappas said. “And it’s left to us, here in Cleveland, in Pittsburgh, all across the country, to pick up the pieces, to show up, to make sure that we eradicate hate from society.”

Northeast Ohio Jewish leaders lit 11 candles to commemorate those killed in Pittsburgh. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

Christian leaders of several denominations spoke at the vigil in a show of solidarity. Pastor Richard Gibson of Elizabeth Baptist Church said the clergy grieved with the local Jewish community as well as with the families of two African-Americans shot to death in Jeffersontown, Ky., last week. Authorities are investigating the killings as a hate crime.

Masroor Malik of the Chagrin Valley Islamic Center said his congregation was willing to help the Jewish community here however it could.

“Brothers and sisters, we’re here to support you, we’re here to stand with you, we’re standing with you at a difficult time, as an ally, as a friend, as a family of the people of Abrahamic faith,” he said.

Hundreds of people, including public officials, recited the names of the dead at the vigil in Beachwood. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple urged those in attendance to speak out in the days to come.

“To speak with clarity and determination against hatred, anti-Semitism, violence, indifference and all those who establish a climate that would send a message to immigrants, Jews, anyone, that they are not welcome in this nation,” he said.

To conclude the vigil, cantor David Malecki led the audience in singing Oseh Shalom, a Jewish prayer.

“He who makes peace in His high places, may He make peace for us,” the prayer reads in English. “And for all Israel, let us say, Amen.”

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