A show of support
Vigil mourns victims of synagogue shooting
Hundreds of people gathered in front of the University of Delaware’s Memorial Hall on Sunday to mourn the victims of Saturday’s synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and show support for the local Jewish community.
“For our grief, this is an opportunity to mourn. For our outrage, it’s a time to cry out. For our fear, an opportunity to pray and to invite courage, and for our vulnerability, it’s a time to stand with others and to discover that we are not really alone,” said Rabbi Jacob Lieberman, of Temple Beth El.
Sunday’s vigil was organized by Hillel at the University of Delaware, Temple Beth El, Congregation Beth Emeth, Congregation Beth Shalom, The Siegel Jewish Community Center and Jewish Federation of Delaware. It drew community members of all faiths, as well as UD students and elected officials.
The vigil came one day after a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the close-knit Jewish community of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh.
The gunman, Robert Gregory Bowers, opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and other weapons during worship services at the synagogue, killing eight men and three women before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, according to state and federal affidavits made public on Sunday. He expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and later told police that “all these Jews need to die,” authorities said.
In addition to the fatalities, six people were injured in the attack, including four police officers.
“This was the worst attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States of America,” Lieberman said. “I’ll pause a moment to let you take that in. The worst attack in our entire history.”
He said now is a time for the community to stay united.
“We are speaking out against anti-Semitism and against violence, which a culture of hate emboldens, when it might otherwise seem safer to be silent,” he said. “Together, we say never again.”
Rabbi Nick Renner, of UD’s Hillel, said the country needs to have two conversations: how to confront hatred and how to care for others.
“Let those conversations be lights that illuminate our way forward in the midst of the tragedy and the darkness, for if those conversations can come alive and lead to action, they can lead to deeds of goodness and healing, it can lead to righteousness and justice, it can lead to togetherness and resiliency,” Renner said. “Then, surely, those two conversations can lead to blessing in our own world.”
John Elzufon, chair of the Jewish Federation of Delaware’s Community Relations Committee, quoted Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, saying that the opposite of love is not hate but, rather, indifference.
“As much as your presence here is appreciated, do not believe that being here is enough,” Elzufon said. “You must do more.”
Robin Burstein, senior associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia office, said her organization tracked a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide last year, including 13 here in Delaware. She called on the community to come together to combat intolerance.
“The shooter’s goal was to terrorize American Jews and anyone who believes in an inclusive society. This was his intent,” Burstein said. “But with all of us standing together as we are today, he will fail miserably.”
Rabbi Jacob Lieberman, of Temple Beth El, speaks in front of Memorial Hall on Sunday during a vigil for those killed in the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Hundreds gather in front the University of Delaware’s Memorial Hall on Sunday to mourn the victims of Saturday’s synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.