Photos: 1,000 Tucsonans light candles, pray for Pittsburgh shooting victims
At least 1,000 Tucsonans gathered at the Jewish Community Center on Monday night, holding a vigil for the victims of the attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue over the weekend.
Eleven candles, representing those killed by a gunman at the Tree of Life Synagogue during services on Saturday, flickered on a table at the front of the outdoor interfaith service. Each was lit by a different representative of the Tucson community. Hundreds sat and listened, while hundreds more stood shoulder-to-shoulder, many embracing, as several area rabbis read a series of prayers that had been written by members of the audience on notecards.
Speakers included a rabbi, a Baptist minister, the Roman Catholic bishop of Tucson, a Sikh woman, an imam, and the mayor of Tucson.
As white lights draped in the trees in the JCC courtyard slowly and relentless dripped downward, those gathered lit small candles themselves, listening to the recitation of prayers for the dead, the survivors, their families and our nation, and heard a series of cantors sing. Often, the voices of the crowd lifted above the amplified singers, joining together in song.
The vigil began with a roll call of those killed in the attack, which took place as three Jewish congregations held services at the Tree of Life on Saturday. Each name was punctuated with a solemn pause of deep silence:
Joyce Fienberg, 75, Oakland Hills, city of Pittsburgh.
Richard Gottfried, 65, Ross Township.
Rose Mallinger, 97, Squirrel Hill.
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Edgewood Borough.
Cecil Rosenthal, 59, Squirrel Hill.
David Rosenthal, 54, brother of Cecil, Squirrel Hill.
Bernice Simon, 84, Wilkinsburg.
Sylvan Simon, 86, husband of Bernice, Wilkinsburg.
Daniel Stein, 71, Squirrel Hill.
Melvin Wax, 88, Squirrel Hill.
Irving Younger, 69, Mt. Washington.
A group of rabbis — men and women — read from selected notecards on which audience members had written prayers, taking turns while the crowd listened, still and quiet.
Couples hugged and brothers stood arm in arm. Teenagers silently watched small candles dance in their palms. Women in hijabs and Buddhists in robes stood with families in blue jeans. "I hope we can find love," a rabbi read. "Talk to a stranger," read another.
"Who will heal the world if not you and I?"
"I am afraid for us... for our world... for all humankind. Is God with us?"
"I pray for the continuing strength of the Jewish people everywhere in this time of need; sending love from Tucson in this time of need. For all who are affected by hatred or violence, Lord, hear our prayers: For those whose hearts are conflicted, give them your peace. For those who grieve for lost or wayward souls, bring them your comforts. For those who cannot empathize, show them understanding. Comfort your people in these troubled times."
"Peace for all; we are one: all religions, all races, all peoples."
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild paid individual respects to those gunned down, again listing their names as he offered small details about each — drawing tears from even cynical veteran reporters in the crowd as he noted Bernice and Sylvan Simon were "killed where they were married more than 60 years ago."
He praised the four police officers who were wounded responding to the attack: "They exemplify who we want to be as Americans. Selfless. Brave. Standing up for others—others we don't even know, simply because they're human."
"These events challenge us as Americans. Bigotry, hate, and violence challenge us as Americans," Rothschild said. "My father served in World War II to defeat Nazis and their poisonous ideology. Lately I’ve wondered if our generation is up to the same task."
As a wave of applause built up in the crowd, Rothschild said, "It will not be easy to address hate speech and gun violence. It will require leadership — real leadership — at the federal and state level."
"It will also require recognition... "
"• that Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities are not the enemy."
"• that ethnic and racial minorities are not the enemy."
"• that refugees and immigrants are not the enemy."
The applause grew: "that women are not the enemy."
And crested with nearly all present clapping as he declared: "that the press is not the enemy."
Instead, Rothschild said, we must know instead "that the poisonous ideology of white supremacy is the enemy. You cannot separate the ideology of hate from the violence it gives rise to."
Rothschild closed his remarks by speaking of the Squirrel Hill victims with the customary Jewish refrain, "May their memories be a blessing."