Several hundred residents gathered with friends, neighbors and complete strangers Monday night for an interfaith service at Temple Beth El in Chappaqua denouncing the hate that claimed 11 lives in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday.
Speakers during the roughly 30-minute service stressed how the event served as an outlet for those to seek solace and stand against hate, bigotry and intolerance, all of which played a role in the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
“For members of these communities, this sacred space was indeed a source of happiness and fulfillment. Those who walked through those doors found only welcome, happiness and peace,” Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe said. “And tonight, we are heartbroken that this world has been shattered by hate.”
Jaffe also cited the hate perpetrated in the series of pipe bombs intended for political targets last week, including Bill and Hillary Clinton. He encouraged those in attendance to rebuild and rejoice through words of tenderness, concern, compassion, love and understanding.
“Together we will build this world with love,” he said.
With New Castle police providing security, Town Supervisor Robert Greenstein said law enforcement officials would remain vigilant to keep the community out of harm’s way. While Greenstein offered his sympathies to the victims and their families, he questioned how many more times the nation would need to come together to cope with a mass shooting.
“What happened on Saturday is not what our country stands for, and yet, once again, we gather for another vigil,” Greenstein said. “We must take a stand against hatred, prejudice and rage and the tragedy it brings. We must make our voices heard. Enough is enough.”
The ceremony featured a candlelight ceremony with the reading of the names of each of the 11 victims by area clergy and members of the temple’s youth congregation. Attendees followed in song and prayer to memorialize the victims and pray for renewal and healing.
Temple Beth El Rabbi Maura Linzer, a Pittsburgh native, said the Tree of Life congregation was where many friends gathered and the site of many joyous moments within the community. She described the area as being accepting, vibrant, proud and tight-knit and rarely experienced the level of divisiveness that other Jewish communities have had to face.
Linzer said she feels distressed and devastated for the victims, families and community plagued by hate and are now left to rebuild their lives.
“In an instant a safe space that was once holy was desecrated, and our sense of comfort and safety stolen,” Linzer said. “People, just like all of us, gathered in Shabbat prayer, were murdered simply for being Jewish.”
A man armed with an assault rifle and several handguns walked into the synagogue in a Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning spewing anti-Semitic comments as he gunned down worshipers.
Residents in attendance, who were wiping away tears as the victims’ names were read, said they felt the need to be part of the Chappaqua and Jewish community while forced to confront the latest national tragedy.
“It just really hits home,” Chappaqua resident Lauren Budow said. “When it happens to people in another community it feels like it could have happened in our community as well and we need to be together in solidarity.”
Chappaqua resident Lewis Lindenberg, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, said he was always instilled with the motto to never forget the tyranny the Jewish people have had to face. He said he has never experienced bigotry personally but is afraid that cruelty is all too present.
“I’ve never felt, as a Jew, this anti-Semitism,” Lindenberg said. “This has been a wake-up call that anti-Semitism is by no means perishing from the world.”