‘We have to do better’
Temple Israel, community mourn Pittsburgh victims
Eleven blue and white candles burned brightly Friday evening as clergy and civic leaders came to Gary’s Temple Israel for a vigil of solidarity for the victims of the Oct. 27 mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
“We’re here to remember the 11 but also show support for all. … Our foundation is social justice, and we will continue this mission. We are survivors,” said Lisa Giglio, who led the Shabbat service.
One by one, community and Temple Israel members lit candles for the 11 mostly elderly Jews killed at the Tree of Life synagogue last week.
The suspect, identified as Robert Bowers, 46, of Pittsburgh, was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns, police said. Police said he yelled, “All Jews must die!” as he entered the Tree of Life synagogue.
Bowers, an anti-Semitic truck driver, pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges in a 44-count indictment accusing him of murder, hate crimes, obstructing the practice of religion and other crimes. He was jailed without bail.
In online posts, Bowers had repeated white supremacist conspiracy theories. He called immigrants “invaders” and said Jews were the enemy of whites.
Friday’s vigil drew about 150 people to Temple Israel, a synagogue that first opened in downtown Gary in 1910. It established its current building in Miller, near Lake Michigan, in 1958.
Sections of Friday’s service were in Hebrew as synagogue leaders explained the meaning of the prayers and verses.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson lit a candle for one of the victims.
In her remarks, she said hearing the names and ages of the victims made the tragedy more real than the news coverage.
“The thing that resonates with me then and now as I see the things that are happening across this room is we know better. ... But knowing better and doing better are two distinct things. ... We have to do better.”
She said even though the Tree of Life massacre happened 500 miles away, the Gary community came together in solidarity.
“The more we do this as an affirmative message to each other, it says we are better than the hatred, the divisiveness ... all of those things that cause people to magnify our differences.”
Retired Diocese of Gary Bishop Dale Melczek, who serves as pastor of St. Mary of the Lake, said he came to stand in solidarity with those in pain and sorrow.
“We come together to condemn the violence and hate that individuals perpetrate on others. ... These disgusting and sinful acts remind us how we have to continue our efforts to eradicate anti-Semitism and racism in all its forms,” he said.
The Rev. Joan Meir, of Peace United Church of Christ in
Merrillville, presented the synagogue’s president, Mark Sperling, with a painting of trees. “The trees are standing side by side. It’s a covenant gift to remember this night.
“Our world is being filled with such negative rhetoric that’s sweeping the land. … We as people of faith are called to stand up. We should be able to feel safe in our houses of worship.”
Giglio closed the service, thanking the audience.
“Last week my heart was full of pain. But you are helping to repair it. Thank you.”
Various members of the community sing together Friday at an interfaith Shabbat/vigil at Temple Israel in Gary in honor of the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre.
Friday’s vigil drew about 150 people to Temple Israel, a synagogue that first opened in downtown Gary in 1910.