In a show of unity with a grieving community nearly 900 miles away, more than 1,500 people packed into Temple Israel for a Service In Solidarity with the Pittsburgh Jewish Community on Sunday afternoon. The service came a day after 11 people were killed and six others wounded by an anti-Semitic gunman who entered the Tree Of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
Arranged with less than 20 hours of notice and sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council, Minnesota Rabbinical Association, Minnesota Cantor’s Association, Minneapolis Jewish Federation and St. Paul Jewish Federation, the service brought clergy from not only across the spectrum of Judaism, but dozens representing other faiths from Universal Unitarian to Muslim.
Temple Israel Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman opened the service with a brief statement before an impeccably kept two minutes of silence, ended with a powerful blast of the shofar from community member Jed Stillman.
“Our hearts fill this sanctuary. We are here in one sanctuary but it represents all sanctuaries: Sanctuaries in our state, in our country, and in the world,” Zimmerman said. “Welcome to our place. Thank you for being here.”
The event started later than the scheduled 3 p.m. time due to lines around the block. Security was heightened for the event, with several visible police officers in and around the building. The overflow space of the chapel wasn’t enough, and another area was setup — also full, with many standing — in the lobby area.
Rabbi Aaron Weininger, who co-chairs the MRA, quoted the Psalm “Tears may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
“Today we carry the devastation of a night that continues into the day, but we also carry the resilience that brings our community together, of Jewish people and those of other faith traditions that stand with us and support us,” he said. “While blood soaked the ground in Pittsburgh, the resilience of good people here believes that a tree of life, an eitz chaim, might grow again in the darkness of this moment.”
JCRC Executive Director Steve Hunegs, who read a letter from Gov. Mark Dayton who was unable to attend due to recovering from back surgery, called on the crowd to also remember the victims of the Emanuel AME church shooting in South Carolina in 2016 – another instance of worshippers being killed for their beliefs.
“We are all inextricably linked by the divine and our spiritual inheritance,” he said.
The service was intertwined with readings from rabbis and songs from the assembled cantors. In one of the most powerful moments, all rabbis who hadn’t previously read and clergy of all other faiths went up to the bimah for a reading of Psalm 120.
“Somebody said to me: We are here. The entire Jewish community is represented,” Zimmerman said. “Every movement, every perspective. God is smiling on us right now. That is what today brings.”