Congregants, residents gather to heal at Temple Emanuel Service after anti-semitic massacre

A woman pays her respects to the victims of Saturdays Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, PA.

Courtesy of Time Magazine

A woman pays her respects to the victims of Saturday’s Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, PA.

Congregants, town council members and many from the community gathered at Temple Emanuel on Sunday night for a healing service following a shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.

The service ran from 7 to 8 p.m., and featured speakers from various churches, messages of solidarity from religious congregations of different faiths and a statement by Cherry Hill Town Council President David Fleisher, a member of Temple Emanuel’s congregation. Also present at the service were three members of the Cherry Hill Police Department, Councilwoman Sangeeta Doshi and Councilman Brian Bauerle.

The mood within the synagogue was heavy and sorrowful, with moments of silence being interspersed with sobs and sniffles.

“For all of us, it is as if 11 members of our family died,” said Rabbi Jerome David of Temple Emanuel.

The service began with a song called the Niggun, the lyrics of which pertain to tears transforming into joy. The service continued with “Hineh Matov,” a popular Jewish hymn that appreciates “how wonderful it is that brothers and sisters dwell together.”

“It’s so good to be supported and comforted,” said David at the beginning of the service. The congregation then joined in reciting the Esah Einai – Psalm 121.

David then invited Dave Fleisher to the podium. Fleisher spoke about the importance of words and actions and spoke appraisingly of how the community had come together.

“We are here as a community, not just as a Jewish community, we are here as citizens, as sisters and brothers…” said Fleisher. “We may have heavy hearts this evening, but may our ability to come together as a community fill our hearts.”

David delivered a makeshift sermon later in the service, drawing on the D’var Torah (commentary on the Torah) of Julian Leibowitz, a community member who became a Bar Mitzvah (son of the commandments) last week, in a Torah portion which described Abraham and Sarah welcoming strangers into their home, who later turn out to be angelic messengers.

“Abraham points us to the mitzvah of welcoming strangers” regardless of who they are, said David, quoting from Leibowitz.

David spoke of the importance of opening the doors of the synagogue to anyone and making Sunday’s service an inclusive one.

“We needed to make this a service for all…we’re all in this together,” he said.

The most emotional moments of the evening were the chanting of the Mi Shebeirach, a Jewish prayer for healing, and the singing of Oseh Shalom, a prayer for peace, at the end of the service just after the mourner’s kaddish. Between the Mi Shebeirach and the Mourner’s Kaddish, 11 candles were lit while the names and ages of the victims were read.

Multiple Christian and Catholic ministers recited readings and made statements in solidarity.

“We want to stand with you; we want to offer not only words; we want to work together to live together in peace,” said Reverend Greg Faulkner of Trinity Presbyterian Church.