Hackney communities gather to hold vigil for Pittsburgh attacks
By Masorti Judaism
50 people gathered on Tuesday 30th October at St Mary’s Church on Church Street, to hold a vigil for the victims of the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Kehillah North London hosted the event, involving New Stoke Newington Shul, Kehillat Kentish, and Hackney Citizens together with their members New Unity and the Catholic Association for Racial Justice, as co-organisers and supporters. Stephen Brown, the Hackney Community Development Officer for United Synagogue, came representing Hackney Synagogue. It was the first time that local synagogues have worked together.
The communities recited traditional and modern prayers, including Psalm 23, and a prayer for the Dead Tree of Life Congregation by American Rabbi Naomi Levy, and the Mourner’s Kaddish. Children from the communities lit candles in memory of the eleven victims who lost their lives on Saturday.
Rabbi Roni Tabick of New Stoke Newington Masorti Synagogue spoke urging listeners to not be deterred by the Pittsburgh attack. He said, “when Jews are killed for entering a synagogue to pray, we must show up to our synagogues on Shabbat in even greater numbers. Where the murderer railed against refugee charities and targeted a community for its work with refugees, we must redouble our own efforts to support refugees. In the face of hatred, we need to stand together, Jews and non-Jews alike, and show that we will continue to go to synagogue, and to work for refugees around the world.”
Cantor Tamara Hope Wolfson, Spiritual Leader of Kehillah North London who herself grew up in the United States, welcomed people to the vigil through wordless song and by sharing her memories of the Pittsburgh Jewish community . She said, “Pittsburgh is a city of two names, the ‘Steel City’ and the ‘City of Bridges’. This epitomises the reaction of Pittsburgh to the attack: both strong, and yet open to reaching out to others. We, too, must be unwavering in the face of terror. And yet we must continue to be tolerant and welcoming, not closing ourselves off from the wider community out of fear.”
Froilan Legaspi, Organiser for Hackney Citizens said, “our members came to express support and deep sympathy after the horrifying and tragic events at the Etz Chaim synagogue in Pittsburgh. Tragic events like this strengthen our commitment to bring diverse communities together in a common cause. Our members stand with the Jewish community and we believe together, we are stronger”.
Rabbi Roni Tabick quoted from the Psalms, on how the different Stoke Newington communities and allies had come together for the vigil, ‘how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity’.