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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

November 2, 2018  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

1,100 pack temple to show solidarity, grieve for victims

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press


Clergy members from many faiths gathered on the bimah at Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg to participate in a candle lighting ceremony in memory of the 11 Jewish worshipers slain on Shabbat, Oct. 27, at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Clergy members from many faiths gathered on the bimah at Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg to participate in a candle lighting ceremony in memory of the 11 Jewish worshipers slain on Shabbat, Oct. 27, at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Rabbi Michael Torop was leading an informal Shabbat service and Torah study at Temple Beth- El in St. Petersburg on Saturday, Oct. 27, when he received a text: “Active shooter at synagogue in Pittsburgh. Multiple casualties.” The group has just finished the Shema – the prayer traditionally spoken by or on behalf of someone who is about to die.

Five days later a crowd estimated at 1,100 packed Beth-El for a “One God – One Faith” interfaith memorial vigil in memory of 11 Jews slain while worshiping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh – their lives taken in the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.


Below, members of the audience hold onto one another during the singing of Oseh Shalom. Below, members of the audience hold onto one another during the singing of Oseh Shalom. Those slain, ranging in age from 54 to 97, were apparently gunned down for no reason other than because they were Jews. Police said the suspect told them at the scene, “All these Jews need to die.”

Once all 650 chairs set up were filled, hundreds more stood in the packed building for a service attended by people of many faiths. They came to express sympathy for the dead and solidarity and compassion for the heartbroken Jewish community here, in Pittsburgh and around the globe. More than a dozen non-Jewish clergy members shared the bimah for prayers and a candle-lighting ceremony to honor those slain.

“Grant us the strength to endure what is inescapable, the wisdom to accept what cannot be undone, and the courage to go on without bitterness or despair,” said Rev. Andy Oliver of Allendale United Methodist Church.


Rev. Robert Ward of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church lights a candle in memory of the 11 Jews slain while worshiping at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27. Rev. Robert Ward of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church lights a candle in memory of the 11 Jews slain while worshiping at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27. Hajji Iman Abdul Karin Ali of the Tampa Bay Area Muslim Association read from the Koran and gave his greetings “to everyone, especially my Jewish brothers and sisters.”

The service included poems, songs, prayers and thanks for the police providing security and the politicians attending, as well as comments from five Pinellas County rabbis, St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and Ezra Singer, president of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas and Pasco Counties.

“We will not be afraid as we boldly and proudly proclaim our identities as Jews. We will not be deterred by hate crimes, nor hate speech’ not by prejudice, nor narrow-mindedness, from living as Jews, from pursuing our mission to repair what is broken in the world,” Rabbi Torop said.

He reminded the audience that Jews have lived in this land since 1654, initially encountering anti-Semitism, but standing up for their beliefs and gaining their place among colonists. Rabbi Torop took note of a letter in 1790 from President George Washington to Jews, wishing them peace and good will.

“Throughout our history, Jews in America have taken our place as equals and have focused our efforts on equality for all. … Together we have built the United States. Let us remain united, one people who speaks out for freedom, who speaks out against hatred and prejudice, one voice that drowns out the sounds of violence and bigotry.”

Rabbi Philip Weintraub of Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg said he has received messages of love and support from every faith community in the city. “We see the power of community, of coming together, of standing together in loss and triumph. We see that unity can, does and must triumph over division and hate.”

He noted that hatred, oppression and genocide of Jews has a long history. “The murders in Pittsburgh were not an attack against religion in general, faith in general or even against God. This was an attack against Jews, against Jewish people, against Jewish bodies.”

Likewise, racial hatred continues to live in the United States. Rabbi Weintraub recalled that days before the synagogue slayings, two black grandparents were shot and killed in a Kentucky grocery store, for no reason other than the color of their skin, and urged the crowd to remember them as they remember those who died at the synagogue.

One of the most poignant moments of the service came when Rabbi Weintraub read a poem written in dedication to a baby who was to have had his bris at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, but had the event postponed when the gunman attacked.

Among the lines read by Rabbi Weintraub:

“I have heard the sacred circumcision postponed for jaundiced yellow, but never before for bloodshed red …

You should have been carried high into the congregation on Shabbat morning – passed from loving hands to loving hands – on a cushioned pillow to receive your Jewish name. Instead your elders fell and were carried out on stretchers in plastic bags. Their names on tags.

The blood on Shabbat morning was supposed to be covenantal, not sacrilegious, sacramental, not sacrificial, sacred, not unholy. The tears were supposed to be of boundless joy, not bottomless sorrow.

The cries were supposed to be “mazel tov” not the Mourner’s Kaddish”

Rabbi David Weizman of Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater, Rabbi Gary Klein of Temple Ahavat Shalom in Palm Harbor and Rabbi Aaron Lever of Menorah Manor also read poems in memory of those slain.

Deputy St. Petersburg Mayor Tomalin spoke about what sort of future is in store for the city, and nation, asked, “What will our children feel? What will be their normal? Will they be terrorized by gun violence, or anesthetized? Those questions are ours to answer.

“When I was a child we prayed with closed eyes and open hearts unafraid of the sounds of a gunman coming for us” she said, wondering how children will pray in the future and noting, “These questions are ours to answer.”


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