‘They’re not going to scare us’: All faiths #ShowUpForShabbat in Philly after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
In Jewish congregations around the Philadelphia region this weekend — the first Jewish Sabbath since the shooting deaths in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue — love and tolerance took a defiant stand against bigotry and hate, with help from other denominations.
Early Saturday morning, a gray sky hung over Philadelphia and soft raindrops fell. But that didn't deter upstate New Yorkers Maralyn and Bernard Klein as they walked along South 18th Street toward Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel.
Their destination: the Center City synagogue's sanctuary for the naming ceremony of their new granddaughter, Zemira.
Also in their minds was another baby-naming ceremony that was supposed to happen last Saturday — a rite of passage that turned into still-reverberating horror when a shooter armed with an arsenal of guns and a mountain of hate murdered 11 worshipers at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue.
Maralyn Klein, 82, didn't miss a beat when asked if she hesitated to come.
"They're not going to scare us," the bubbe harrumphed. "We were going to come no matter what, and especially being it's our granddaughter's baby naming. The maniacs don't get to win."
In congregations around the Philadelphia region this weekend — the first Jewish Sabbath since the Oct. 27 massacre in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill section — love and tolerance took a defiant stand against bigotry and hate.
Answering the call to #ShowUpforShabbat issued by the American Jewish Committee and backed by other groups such as the Anti-Defamation Legion and the Jewish Federations of North America, people of all faiths turned out for services and other observances Friday night and Saturday. Some Jewish congregations are planning solidarity ceremonies next Friday, as well.
The effort has also been endorsed by the Orthodox Union, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, as well as Jewish communities in England, South Africa, China, and other nations. On social media, congregation members around the country talked about their synagogue sanctuaries swelling with participants in response to calls for unity as well as services in memory of those killed in Pittsburgh.
Many Jewish congregations have felt an outpouring of support.
Melissa Johnson, executive director of Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, said her congregation has received interfaith messages of support and condolences, including from Muslims, Presbyterians, and Baptists.
"People are reacting to us, and saying, 'What can we do?' " Johnson said. "One of the first things we're saying is to encourage people to vote."
At Shabbat services at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel, City Councilman Allan Domb, on behalf of Mayor Kenney and his Council colleagues, read a citation of remembrance for the Pittsburgh victims and for unity against a "historic" rise in anti-Semitism.
State Sen. Larry Farnese (D., Phila.), addressing a full sanctuary, vowed his support and that of his legislative colleagues.
"It is time that we put a stop to this — not just here in Philadelphia, Pa., but across the country," Farnese said.
Leaders at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel and other Jewish congregations said some of the most touching shows of support have been personal, heartfelt gestures from their spiritual neighbors.
Children from the Tenth Presbyterian Church's preschool reached out with handmade posters and expressions of support to Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel's preschoolers earlier in the week.
Saturday morning, Tenth Presbyterian congregant Jan Witmer went to synagogue to worship "to show you need to keep walking in faith no matter what happens."
Toni Alperin-Goldberg, a Beth Zion congregant, said she had been emailing friends of other faiths to come Saturday. "Three are already inside," she said, heading for the temple steps.
Pastor Shawn Johnson of Harvest Sanctuary Christian Fellowship Church in North Philadelphia was also heading into the synagogue Saturday morning.
"We always try to do better, not worse," Johnson said. "When something of this nature happens, we raise our hands up to the Almighty, and we fight our battles in prayer."
During the service, Rabbi Abe Friedman told those gathered that their fight must be for all people, regardless of religion, gender, race, or sexual identity.
"The only credible claim for human dignity is one that extends to all people," he said.
And like his colleagues at the Main Line temple in Wynnewood, he urged personal responsibility, including voting on Tuesday.
"We have a sacred responsibility to choose representatives who will carry out our fight for dignity," the rabbi said.