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Faith Leaders come together in Solidarity following murders in Pittsburgh Jewish Community of Pittsburgh at Congregation Beth Shalom, Temple Beth El

Bestowing prayers and blessings from the Talmud, Koran, Book of Psalms and Guru Granth Sahib, religious leaders spoke before a gathering of 500 people at Beth Shalom in Oak Park on Tuesday, Oct. 30 honoring the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in PittsThe vigil was hosted by Beth Shalom and Temple Emanuel, their rabbis Robert Gamer and Matthew Zerwekh and was organized in part by the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, the Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network, and the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.


As they entered the building, members of Beth Shalom and Temple Emanuel welcomed and thanked the participants and encouraged them to light a candle in memory of the Jews who were murdered as they worshipped at Tree of Life/Ohr Simcha in Pittsburgh Oct. 27. 

IFLC Board Member Dr. Charles Packer gave the opening benediction. 

He commended the Jewish community and remarked that even in the face of  such a horrible attack on their community, they made efforts to connect to others outside their Jewish faith in grief and pain who are also seekers of justice.

It is clear this unspeakable act has not silenced this great faith in its quest for healing of the world, in its quest for justice for all people. The Jewish people continue to build bridges of solidarity and what prevails is what is good, right and true. I have been touched Franciscan blessing that urges us to keep pressing onward in the midst of tragedy and destruction.  May God bless us .. may we continue to work for peace. May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain and rejection so we reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain to joy. 

Rev. Charles Packer, Pine Hill Congregational Church
Rev. Charles Packer

Rabbi Zerwekh of Temple Emanuel said to the assembly that they had gathered because of the 11 murdered in a Pittsburgh synagouge because they were Jewish and they had gathered because two were murdered the next day in a Kentucky supermarket because they were black.  Similar gatherings have occured in our recent past, he said because people were gunned down because they were the wrong kind of Christian, or they were gay.

IFLC Board member Donna Jawad began her address with a quote from the Koran that stresses the value of all life and when one life is saved, it is as if all of mankind is saved. In the wake of the murders of the 11 Jews in Pittsburgh and the two African Americans gunned down by a man who first unsuccessfully tried to break into a black church that morning, Jawad said she was “grieving and in a state of disbelief” that things like this could happen in the United States in 2018. She asked those in attendance to remember the Tree of Life Synagogue, and the victims lost and all the good they and it provided and will continue to provide to their community and not the place of another mass shooting.

 We stand united here tonight in the memory in the human race God created we shall not stand idly by any longer and watch hatred take over our country. Tonight, I say enough: enough hate, enough divide. We are no longer going to be a silent majority, we the leaders know we are tired of the divide and that our hearts are broken with grief over the latest rash of killings because of racial and anti-Semitic hatred. We should not be afraid to go to our own places of worship to pray.

Donna Jawad, Board of Directors, Interfaith Leadership Council

Every seat was taken in the synagogue’s main sanctuary and many stood in the back to hear the singing of Temple Emanuel’s Cantorial Soloist Kelly Onickel and the many speakers who quoted from Martin Luther King, the book of Psalms, and prayers written by the Order of the Franciscans as well as RitualWell’s Rabbi Naomi Levy.

There is a sickness growing in our beloved America. A seethingly fear mongering this sickness is allowing hatred to grow , the same sickness that allowed White Ntationalists to Chant Jews will not replace us in Charlottesville…. There are growing divisions in America between black and white, the left and the right and the haves and have nots… These tragedies can make us want to retreat into our own corners…that is when the bigots begin to win, this is when we must do precisely what we are doing tonight to reach out to each other in times of fear suffering and human misery. Together we can begin to heal.

Rabbi Matthew J. Zerwekh, Temple Emanuel

Before the evening concluded with a many-versed sing along to We Shall Overcome, Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Robert Gamer reminded the crowd of the teachings of Rabbi Hillel: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?

“We have to be for ourselves, but we have to go outside of ourselves to find and reach out to those who are different from us, who do not look like us and who do not pray the same as us,” Gamer said. “This evening must mark a beginning and not an end. We have to be for each other not just today, but every day. That is the only way we can change the world. That is the only way we will never have to have another evening (of mourning senseless violent deaths) like this.”

Another interfaith vigil for the 11 Jews murdered as they prayed in their sanctuary drew over 1000 to Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, where clergy from various faiths offered messages of sadness, comfort and hope.

Rev. Priscilla Tucker, president of the Metropolitan Christian Council gave words of comfort from Psalm 121 and she expressed her empathy for worshippers being slaughtered as they prayed, recalling the pain and shock at hearing about the 2015 murders at the Emanual AME church.

She prayed: “The children of Abraham will not succomb to hate. We must heal hurting hearts, America and the world.”

The evening concluded with singing verses of We Shall Overcome by Chaplain Yvonne Fant-Moore of the First Universalist Unitarian Church. 

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