Last Friday upon hearing the devastating news that 50 Muslims had been slaughtered in the mosques where they prayed, hundreds gathered for Friday afternoon prayers at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills. The parking lot and the men’s and women’s galleries filled to capacity as mourners of all faiths listened to the words of Imam Al-Masmari he spoke of how evil killings like this occur all over the world when there is an absence of moral character and spirituality.
The MUC also held a vigil on Sunday, as did mosques in Dearborn and Detroit where there was an outpouring of sympathy from the wider interfaith community.
Al-Masmari, who attended and spoke at a vigil held at Congregation Beth Shalom after the Pittsburgh murders, said on Friday, March 15, that the most difficult moments also bring out the best in people. He noted that within hours of the New Zealand attack, he and his community had received an outpouring of love and solidarity from other faith and civic groups.
“The most difficult moments bring out the best in us,” said Al-Masmari to a gathering of hundreds at last Friday’s afternoon prayers. “Even when there are disagreements among our religious leaders, we will always stand together in solidarity. As Muslims, we have to branch out to receive support. We have to not wait but to reach out to each other in troubled times.”
Rabbis from many congregations were in attendance that afternoon including Adat Shalom of Farmington Hills, Temple Beth El, Temple Israel and Kehilat Eytz Chayim.
After attending both Friday’s prayer service and Sunday’s vigil, IFLC Program Director Wendy Gamer quoted from the book of proverbs that states that wisdom is at the intersection where different paths meet.
She said that the silver lining of the murders in New Zealand was evident in the good hearts of the neighbors who came together to support each other in grief.
“The diverse people and paths that converged at one mosque on one Sunday in Bloomfield Hills gives me hope that wisdom will prevail.”
If the sea of hijabs at the Tree of Life vigil and the sea of kippot (there were many) at the MUC last night lead to softened and opened hearts in both communities, then perhaps there is some good we can salvage from the wreckageJeff Silver, West Bloomfield
At a Sunday vigil held at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Kehilat Eytz Chaim of Detroit spoke as the representative of the larger Jewish community. He said upon entering the MUC on Friday to give comfort and support, it was he himself who felt welcomed and comforted by those who gathered there to mourn. After he spoke, he delivered the El Rachamim prayer, which he said was very similar to the Islamic prayer one says when there is news that someone has been killed.
“Good (Jews, Muslims and Christians) have a common enemy of hatred against us,” he said. “We have to stick together from now on. When we see each other, we must ask each other if we are okay, how can I help you? The haters want to separate us from each other. Instead, let us make a commitment to fill our hearts with love and support for each other.”
Also present at Sunday’s Dearborn Vigil was US Congresswoman Rashida Talib, fiercely criticizing President Donald Trump for not calling out the growth of white nationalism in the US as a threat to our country but quick to condemn an attack if it is perpetuated by someone of the Muslim faith.
“Growing up Muslim, I always felt I had my Muslim neighbors looking out for me and now I worry about my own 13-year-old boy as there are shootings in and around mosques from North Carolina to Mississippi to Louisiana. This is happening in our backyard and what is more painful to me than the hatred is the silence. Because, when you are silent in the face of hate, you are essentially letting it be. The president must condemn these attacks.”
Jeff Silver of West Bloomfield, a member of Beth Ahm made a donation to a GoFundMe site for the families of the victims but felt like he needed to do something more personal. That is why he attended the Sunday vigil at the MUC. Though it is not his custom to wear a kippah out in public outside of synagogue, he wanted to be visibly seen as Jewish and wore one into the mosque.
“My Muslim neighbors who were hurting. I needed to look them in the eye to affirm and support them in their sorrow,” said Silver. “In turn, I was affirmed and lifted up. I also wanted to return the strong outpouring of support from Detroit’s Muslim community in the wake of the Tree of Life massacre. One heart, one love. Let’s get together and feel all right.
I went to the interfaith vigil at the MUC yesterday for two reasons. First, I felt like I had to do something. I could and did make a donation to a charity for the victims and survivors. But that is impersonal. I felt like I needed to look into the eyes of my neighbors who were hurting — to affirm them, and to support them in their sorrow. And of course in doing so, I was affirmed, and I was lifted up. While I would have attended the vigil regardless of the order of the tragedies, a second reason I went was to return, measure for measure the strong outpouring of support they showed the Jewish community after Pittsburgh.