One Week After Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre, Hundreds Show Up for Shabbat

Two girls lean over the balcony rail at Squirrel Hill’s Beth Shalom Congregation, which held a community Shabbat service Nov. 3, 2018, on the one-week anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in the Pittsburgh neighborhood. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

At 9:52 a.m., they stood in silence in the cavernous sanctuary of Congregation Beth Shalom in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood here, less than a mile from the Tree of Life synagogue, where at 9:52 last Saturday (Oct. 27), a gunman had begun shooting.

Then they sat down to continue the litany of prayers and Torah readings that Jews have recited for generations.

Dressed formally in ties, jackets and dresses, and carrying babies in tow, these Jews wanted to send a message that they are proud of their faith and will not cower in fear in the wake of what has been described as the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States. Eleven people were killed.

Earlier in the week, Robert Bowers, a truck driver from the Baldwin borough of Pittsburgh, pleaded not guilty in a federal courtroom to 44 counts, including hate crimes and using a firearm to commit murder in a crime of violence.

The Shabbat service at Beth Shalom was part of a nationwide initiative by the advocacy group AJC, #ShowUpForShabbat, encouraging Jews to come together in response to the horrific massacre.

There was also healing work to take care of.

After members from among Tree of Life’s three congregations took turns reading the Torah portion for the day, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, the rabbi of Tree of Life, stood up to give the sermon. He wanted to explain to a largely — but not exclusively — liberal Jewish community why he welcomed President Trump, who visited Pittsburgh along with First Lady Melania Trump on Tuesday.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Yonat Shimron