IN SOL­I­DAR­ITY AND GRIEF

PressReader - Tke Channel - IN SOL­I­DAR­ITY AND GRIEF
Rabbi Jor­dan Cohen had just gath­ered his con­gre­ga­tion for a light lunch at Hamil­ton’s Tem­ple Ashe Sholom Satur­day when all at once, news of the mass shoot­ing at a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue hit the room.The mem­bers had turned on their cell­phones for the first time af­ter a morn­ing of ser­vices at the syn­a­gogue — which un­like ortho­dox con­gre­ga­tions per­mits the use of elec­tron­ics on the Sab­bath.As the news alerts poured in, the chat­ter sub­sided.“You started see­ing this wave go­ing across the room as peo­ple were get­ting the in­for­ma­tion and that’s went ev­ery­one went silent,” said Cohen. “Re­ally, to­tal shock is the only way it could be de­scribed. You could pal­pa­bly see par­ents pulling their kids closer to them. The fact this hap­pened at a syn­a­gogue at the same time we were do­ing what we do every week at our Sab­bath ser­vices was just unimag­in­able.”Jewish com­mu­ni­ties across Canada, in­clud­ing Cohen’s, are plan­ning vig­ils in the wake of the shoot­ing at the Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh that left 11 peo­ple dead and six wounded.A Toronto woman was among those killed, ac­cord­ing to a rabbi from one of Toronto’s old­est Jewish con­gre­ga­tions. A state­ment posted on Face­book by Rabbi Yael Splan­sky said 75-year-old Joyce Fien­berg grew up in the Holy Blos­som Tem­ple com­mu­nity, which is lo­cated in north Toronto and has over 6,500 mem­bers.Splan­sky said Fien­berg was mar­ried at the tem­ple, and her con­fir­ma­tion photo is on its wall of honour.“I did not know her. She was mar­ried here be­fore my time. But I walk past her every day,” said Splan­sky. Deanna Levy, a spokes­woman for the tem­ple, said the photo is of Fien­berg when she was 16 years old.Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau con­demned the mass shoot­ing in the syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh’s Squir­rel Hill neigh­bour­hood, as a “hor­rific anti-Semitic at­tack.”“Cana­di­ans’ hearts are with the Jewish com­mu­nity in Pitts­burgh to­day,” Trudeau wrote in a post on Twit­ter. “May the fam­i­lies of those mur­dered be com­forted, and may the in­jured re­cover quickly and fully.”On Satur­day, a gun­man opened fire dur­ing wor­ship ser­vices at the syn­a­gogue, killing eight men and three women, be­fore a tac­ti­cal po­lice team tracked him down and shot him. The vic­tims’ ages range from 54 to 97 and in­clude a pair of broth­ers and a hus­band and wife.The ac­cused, 46-year-old Robert Gre­gory Bow­ers, is fac­ing 29 crim­i­nal of­fences. He is sched­uled to make his first court ap­pear­ance on Mon­day.Bow­ers, who had no ap­par­ent crim­i­nal record but is be­lieved to have ex­pressed vir­u­lently anti-Semitic views on so­cial me­dia, ap­pears to have acted alone, author­i­ties said.In the wake of the event, Cana­dian po­lice de­part­ments are in­creas­ing of­fi­cer vis­i­bil­ity around Jewish fa­cil­i­ties.“As a pre­cau­tion (Satur­day), po­lice across the coun­try sig­nalled to us that they would im­me­di­ately in­crease front line po­lice pres­ence in Jewish neigh­bour­hoods and around Jewish com­mu­nity in­sti­tu­tions which will likely con­tinue for the next few days,” Martin Sampson, vice-pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing for the Cen­tre for Is­rael and Jewish Af­fairs, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing Jewish fed­er­a­tions, said in a state­ment. “There is noth­ing what­so­ever to in­di­cate an in­creased se­cu­rity threat to Cana­dian Jews.”Those in the Jewish com­mu­nity should re­main vig­i­lant and con­tact po­lice im­me­di­ately if they see any­thing sus­pi­cious, he added.Avi Ben­lolo, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Friends of the Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­tre for Holo­caust Stud­ies, called for tougher hate crime laws fol­low­ing the events, cit­ing sta­tis­tics that show an in­crease in in­ci­dents di­rected to­ward Canada’s Jewish com­mu­nity.“I al­ways say that we know from his­tory, the holo­caust and other in­ci­dents, that anti-Semitism does lead to vi­o­lence and this is a di­rect ex­am­ple,” he said in an in­ter­view. “Words can lead to vi­o­lence. There­fore I be­lieve in stronger hate crime laws so when peo­ple are spew­ing out venom, the law can im­me­di­ately take ef­fect and ar­rest these peo­ple.”A re­port from Sta­tis­tics Canada, found that Jewish peo­ple were the tar­get of the most hate crimes out of any re­li­gious group in 2016. Hate crimes against the Jewish pop­u­la­tion grew to 221 in­ci­dents in 2016, up from 178 in­ci­dents a year be­fore, with the largest hikes recorded in On­tario, Que­bec and Man­i­toba.Rabbi Reu­ven Bulka of Ot­tawa’s Con­gre­ga­tion Machzikei Hadas, whose ortho­dox con­gre­ga­tion does not use elec­tronic de­vices on the Sab­bath, learned of the events in Pitts­burgh at about 7 p.m. Satur­day.“Some­one gave me a heads up af­ter Sab­bath was over,” said Bulka. “I was hop­ing it was a hoax. Ob­vi­ously the next ques­tion then, was ‘are we se­cure?’ ”Bulka’s syn­a­gogue, which was de­faced by graf­fiti in 2016, is mon­i­tored by se­cu­rity cam­eras, re­quires mem­bers to buzz in at a locked door and em­ploys armed guards on high hol­i­days.“It’s an un­for­tu­nate thing but it’s noth­ing new and there are other places of wor­ship that have to do it too,” he said, adding that the mea­sures have been in place for decades. “The good out of all this is the sol­i­dar­ity, the com­ing to­gether of the com­mu­nity, the emails and calls I’ve got­ten from all walks of life and reli­gions. The di­a­bol­i­cal evil that was per­pe­trated has ac­tu­ally strength­ened this com­mu­nity, iron­i­cally.”For Cohen too, the in­ci­dents reignite old con­cerns about se­cu­rity, par­tic­u­larly af­ter his syn­a­gogue was tar­geted by anti-Semitic hate mail ear­lier this year.It’s an in­cred­i­ble bal­ance we’re try­ing to main­tain to be safe and se­cure but also open and wel­com­ing,” he said. “We’re not putting armed guards at the door. Quite frankly, that’s not the kind of place we want to be in and to be hon­est we can’t af­ford it ei­ther. Are there other mea­sures we can be tak­ing? It’s sad that’s the con­ver­sa­tion we have to keep hav­ing again and again.”

Peo­ple mourn in Sol­diers and Sailors Memo­rial Hall and Mu­seum in Pitts­burgh on Sun­day dur­ing a com­mu­nity gath­er­ing in the af­ter­math of Satur­day’s mass shoot­ing at the city’s Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue. Eight men and three women were killed when a gun­man opened fire on wor­ship­pers.

A woman prays near the Tree of Life syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh on Sun­day af­ter 11 peo­ple were killed in a shoot­ing on Satur­day. In the wake of the mas­sacre, Cana­dian po­lice de­part­ments have put more of­fi­cers around Jewish fa­cil­i­ties.

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