On a raining Sunday evening in November 2018 over two thousand people gathered together in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland, more than a thousand others flooded out of the doors into the rain to make known that “The tree of life will never be uprooted by hate.”
On Saturday, October 27th at around 10 am Robert Bowers, 46, opened fire in the synagogue during a Shabbat service killing 11 people attending the service. For a moment it seemed that Pittsburgh was standing still. Of course, we have heard about shootings like this before but never in our lives have they hit so close to home. Many people were close to the synagogue the day that it happened. On doctors visits, shopping trips, and the like many people in the community and in the school were far too close to the shooting that is comfortable.
Many were traumatized and frightened from the event that happened far too close to home. But during the vigil at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Oakland, the largest message was one of hope.
Dignitaries from all over the world were in attendance. People from the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, to white house representatives, to the ambassadors from Israel to the United States and the UN, even the president of Israel sent in a video message with his condolences and encouragements for the people and the synagogue. Many speeches were given, and many tears were shed but strength and hope came through to all.
Many speakers included this portion from the Torah:
|ד גַּם כִּי-אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת, לֹא-אִירָא רָע– כִּי-אַתָּה עִמָּדִי;
שִׁבְטְךָ וּמִשְׁעַנְתֶּךָ, הֵמָּה יְנַחֲמֻנִי.
|4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
|ה תַּעֲרֹךְ לְפָנַי, שֻׁלְחָן– נֶגֶד צֹרְרָי;
דִּשַּׁנְתָּ בַשֶּׁמֶן רֹאשִׁי, כּוֹסִי רְוָיָה.
|5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
|ו אַךְ, טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי– כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּי;
וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-יְהוָה, לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים.
|6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Others said that they came to Pittsburgh and saw in the people a strength and light in a diverse, united community. Still, more love was shown in the speech saying “Bigotry will not win, hatred will not win, love will conquer all.” And it seemed true.
Every person who got up to speak, every song that was sung, every tear that was shed spoke or was sung or was shed in hope and love. An evil may have been revealed in our city but our city did not fall. In fact, we rose higher than that evil and responded in love.