By Charly SHELTON
The attack last weekend at a synagogue in Pittsburgh has left the nationwide Jewish community shaken. Robert Bowers, a long-haul trucker, entered the Tree of Life synagogue in the affluent Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh on Saturday and opened fire during a service. He killed 11 worshipers, injured two more and then injured four police officers who responded to the scene.
“The [Jewish] community itself is rattled. Even though it happened in Pittsburgh, it happened in a place of worship and it was a targeted attack, so the Jewish community is somewhat on edge,” said Jason Moss, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. “You have a lot of people who are feeling scared and looking around as they enter the synagogue, whether it’s for a community service or even dropping their kids off for Sunday school or Hebrew school. There are a lot of people who are just in a daze of uncertainty at what has transpired. This is the first attack in this type on the Jewish community and, in fact, according to the Anti-Defamation League, it’s the largest attack in America towards Jews.”
The ADL tracks hate crimes and has noted a rise in anti-Semitism overall, as noted after the shooting in a statement from CEO Johnathan Greenblatt.
“It is simply unconscionable for Jews to be targeted during worship on a Sabbath morning, and unthinkable that it would happen in the United States of America in this day and age,” Greenblatt said. “Unfortunately, this violence occurs at time when ADL has reported a historic increase in both anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic online harassment.”
In response to the incident of hate comes a huge outpouring of love from religious communities across the country and around the world. Over the last week, unity services have been held by interfaith groups and churches to show solidarity and support for the Jewish community. One such service was held at the Jewish Temple and Center in Altadena last Sunday in memory of and in honor of the victims of the assault. Peggy Smith, a parishioner at St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church in La Crescenta, was in attendance after the invitation spread from one church to the next.
“[The tone was] solemn. Grieving. Tremendously sad. And, at the same time, committed to working toward community and understanding of others. There were about 300 people [in attendance]; it was a great turnout. They had to set up extra chairs,” Smith said. “[We walked away with the sentiment to] do whatever you can in your own world to create understanding among people, and to reduce the level of vitriol that has entered, on all sides in some cases, our political discourse in this country. Some expressed bafflement and many expressed a very firm commitment to building bridges and building communication, and not allowing the xenophobia that is expressed, sometimes at the highest level of government on down, not to allow that to inform who we are as Americans.”
For the Jewish community in LA and around the country, these unity services make a world of difference and show that despite a rise in anti-Semitism it is not the norm and not acceptable.
“At these community gatherings and prayer services, there is a sense of appreciation because so many of them have had interfaith components. People of faith have reached out to the Jewish community in ways that the Jewish community has always reached out to others, and [because] a [larger interfaith] community is there to support the Jewish community as a whole has been unbelievable and so welcome and appreciated,” Moss said.
Another solidarity event will be held tonight, Thursday, Nov. 1, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Levitt Pavilion at Memorial Park in Pasadena, hosted by Representative Judy Chu. For any other events or more information on the Jewish community in the area, visit the Jewish Federation’s website at JewishSGPV.org.