People of many faiths and communities came to Temple De Hirsch Sinai Monday night in solidarity with the victims of the weekend’s shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
“Tonight Pittsburgh is a city in the state of Washington,” Gov. Jay Inslee told the crowd of thousands.
The interfaith service in Seattle brought thousands from all over the region to mourn and heal after the anti-semitic massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh over the weekend. Speakers from different religious backgrounds and political offices addressed two sets of crowds — hundreds seated inside the Temple De Hirsch Sinai and even more outside in the streets.
At Tree of Life in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, 11 worshippers, mostly seniors, were fatally shot during Sabbath services. Police arrested Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old who news reports say threatened Jewish groups and pushed conspiracy theories online.
Temple De Hirsch Sinai was filled to its maximum capacity by congregants and other community members. Clergy members from a variety of denominations and local elected officials sat at the front.
Seattle was one of many cities across the world that held vigils this week for the victims off the Tree of Life massacre. Police escorted community members through a security check and into the Temple De Hirsch Sinai in the north Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Many families and elders attend the service, including Bill Kreager who has lived here for over 50 years. As we waited in line for security check, he drew parallels between Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood Seattle’s North Capitol Hill, both historically middle-class and Jewish.
Amongst the solemn greetings inside the temple were the giggles of young adults. Seattle’s BBYO, a Jewish teen cultural club of 8th-12th graders pass out handmade blue ribbons. Students decided to spend their weekly meeting at the vigil.
“We have three chapters here tonight, and they’ve all decided on their own to come,” one student told me. “My chapter plans to go out to dinner and talk about it, if they want.”
A message: Stronger Than Hate
While discussions of gun violence often become inherently political, the night’s speakers stood by a single mantra: Stronger Than Hate.
The Seattle region seemed to be sending a strong a message with the presence of politicians seated so prominently in the theater. Our region is growing, and many speakers said they wondered what we will grow into.
“The decision to act or be a bystander is our decision. It is not something abstract or intellectual,” Rabbi Will Berkovitz of Jewish Family Services said.“Attacking people for who they are or who they love is an evil.”
Speakers from all faiths and backgrounds continued throughout the evening. Many addressed the crowd standing outside after stepping off the podium within the temple. Between speeches the group outside would sing loud enough to bleed into the service going on indoors.
“I think this may be the first time I’ve heard complaints for a member of the cloth to be louder and speak longer” joked De Hirsch Sinai’s Rabbi Daniel Weiner to the crowd gathered outdoors.
By the end of the event, the neighborhood was saturated with a sense of acceptance and belonging and, for the first time since the attack, safety.