30 Days Later: After the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, a Brooklyn temple preaches unity
Rabbis, priests, imams and pastors came together on Wednesday in Prospect Heights for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre. Just a month after the Pittsburgh tragedy, attendees declared unity among faiths and against hate at the Union Temple on Eastern Parkway.
The gathering was made even more poignant by the attendance of Tova Perlman, whose father was present at the synagogue in Squirrel Hill where 11 people were killed and six others wounded, including four police officers.
The crime was conducted by Robert Bowers, 46, a man with a history of anti-Semitic online behavior.
At the front of the auditorium, 11 candles were lit for each one of those killed in Pittsburgh.
Perlman spoke of the terror of the day, how her father survived the shooting and how in the aftermath, so many people reached out to her family.
“I found the Jewish community’s support heartwarming, but what I was not prepared for was the uplifting support and dedication of time and energy from the non-Jewish communities,” Perlman said, referring to the interfaith gathering. “I saw the Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. He spoke at a vigil sponsored by the Rodman Street Baptist Church with which our synagogue had a five-year relationship. The vigil was the highlight in a dismal and horrifying week of funerals. I could feel the importance of faith and religion in helping us through the aftermath of Oct. 27.”
In addition to many rabbis, there were priests from different parishes and an imam from the Muslim community.
Pastor Gil Monrose, of the Mt. Zion Church of God, said supporting other religions in a time of need is “not only … our tradition, but it is Jewish tradition and they were there for us many times. It is basic moral ethics to support the family of God.”
“We are all part of the human race and that makes us family – that makes us concerned,” Monrose added. “When the massacre in Charleston happened, a lot of Jewish people came to us as well to rise up against the violence and crime. We have only one option but to be together.”
Councilember Brad Lander said he was gratified by how many people have come together after the massacre from all religions.
“Within our Jewish communities, I saw so many of you work together and show up for each other – a powerful act of solidarity,” Lander said. “On that Friday night and Saturday morning, so many people were here for service – we had hundreds and hundreds of non-Jews who showed up with us to observe the sabbath together, to say to us they are with us, and say ‘We see you, we love you, we are here for you.’”
Camelyn Malallis, chair and commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, said the anti-semitic attacks have “shaken our values in New York City to the core.”
“Our message has been to come together to stand up to the unrelenting attacks,” Malallis said. “We are always affirming that we will not tolerate discrimination as New Yorkers and that we will show up for each other against anti-semitism, against xenophobia, homophobia and any other discrimination. We will work together and protect New Yorkers from discrimination.”