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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


 

November 2, 2018  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

800 show solidarity, sympathy for those slain in Pittsburgh

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press


A standing room only mixed faith crowd including a large contingent of law enforcement officers gathered at Oct. 29 at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Tampa to mourn 11 Jews slain in a Pittsburgh synagogue. At right, lighting candles in memory of the dead are Amanda Saft of the Florida Holocaust Museum and Rabbi Lazer Rivkin of Bais David Chabad in Tampa. A standing room only mixed faith crowd including a large contingent of law enforcement officers gathered at Oct. 29 at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Tampa to mourn 11 Jews slain in a Pittsburgh synagogue. At right, lighting candles in memory of the dead are Amanda Saft of the Florida Holocaust Museum and Rabbi Lazer Rivkin of Bais David Chabad in Tampa. The slaying of 11 Jews who were worshiping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Oct. 27, “is the nightmare scenario,” talked about in rabbinical school, Rabbi Josh Hearshen told a crowd of more than 800.

They gathered Oct. 29 to grieve for those killed in the deadliest attack on Jews in the nation’s history – and to show solidarity against hatred in all forms.

There was standing room only at Rabbi Hearshen’s synagogue, Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Tampa, with a mix of Jews, Christians and Muslims attending to honor the dead and condemn the hatred that Jews and so many others encounter all too often across the globe. The event included prayers, songs, poems, the lighting of 11 candles for the shooting victims and the recitation of their names.

“In the 1930s and 40s, when synagogues were being destroyed in Europe, it seemed Jews did not have a friend in the world. We sat and cried and mourned alone. That is not the case in 2018,” said Rabbi Hearshen as he recognized clergy and their congregants from other faiths, then triggered a standing ovation when he thanked the sizable contingent of law enforcement officers present. He said initially there were security concerns over even planning the night’s event. “Our synagogues were never meant to have SWAT officers in front of them, yet, here we are.”

He thanked those attending for their show of solidarity and said there are no good answers as to the why or how of the shootings that “left us dumbfounded and in tears.”


As those gathered sang Oseh Shalom at the conclusion of the service, clergy members and guests put arms around shoulders and swayed in a show of unity. From left are Rabbi Josh Hearshen of Rodeph Sholom; Steve Haubenstock, president of Rodeph Sholom; Joe Probasco, president of the Tampa JCCs and Federation; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Rev. James Golden of Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church; Rabbi Jason Rosenberg of Congregation Beth Am, Rabbi Emeritus Richard Birnholz of Congregation Schaarai Zedek and Rabbi Lazer Rivkin of Bais David Chabad. As those gathered sang Oseh Shalom at the conclusion of the service, clergy members and guests put arms around shoulders and swayed in a show of unity. From left are Rabbi Josh Hearshen of Rodeph Sholom; Steve Haubenstock, president of Rodeph Sholom; Joe Probasco, president of the Tampa JCCs and Federation; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Rev. James Golden of Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church; Rabbi Jason Rosenberg of Congregation Beth Am, Rabbi Emeritus Richard Birnholz of Congregation Schaarai Zedek and Rabbi Lazer Rivkin of Bais David Chabad. Rabbi Hearshen noted that in spite of mourning the loss of lives, “We will continue. We will dance. We will sing. We will pray. We will rejoice – no matter what the anti-Semites or bigots want. We will carry on.”

Tampa JCCs and Federation President Joe Probasco said those in the local Jewish community are saddened by the slayings, but not entirely surprised, as security for Jewish facilities has for a long time been a matter Jews have to consider. “It is a realization of our worse fears, and all the walls in the world and all the police will do nothing to prevent it again unless we have serious dialogue about anti-Semitism.”


Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the crowd that first responders at the Tree of Life “knew that they were the only thing that stood between good and evil at the moment, and they stood up.” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the crowd that first responders at the Tree of Life “knew that they were the only thing that stood between good and evil at the moment, and they stood up.” Quoting Elie Wiesel, he told the crowd, “We must take sides. Silence encourages the tormenter.”

Mayor Bob Buckhorn repeated the names of those slain in Pittsburgh, then said, “We are gathered to stand in solidarity with our Jewish community. … The 11 fallen at the synagogue were as scriptures tell us, living by faith as they died.”

Their deaths are a reminder, he continued, “that in the face of evil, we have an obligation to not just pray, but to act - to speak out against bigotry and hatred. To speak out against those who would divide us and demonize us.”

Buckhorn said the first responders at the Tree of Life “knew that they were the only thing that stood between good and evil at the moment, and they stood up. That is our America and that is our Tampa.

“When a mosque is defaced, we stand up.

“When immigrants are denigrated, we stand up.

“When our gay friends and neighbors are harassed, we stand up.

“When African-Americans in our city are denied opportunities because of the color of their skin, we stand up.

“When there is a 60 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 across America and when a sacred place of worship in attacked, we stand up and we say in a loud and clear voice, ‘not on my watch, America.’”

Rev. James Golden of the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church of Port Tampa delivered a fiery condemnation of hatred and anti-Semitism, holding the audience spellbound. In a thunderous voice and with a flurry of arms, he energized the crowd with words lamenting the hatred behind the slayings and the atmosphere of hatred and division that seems so pervasive today.

He listed the long and too familiar litany of mass shootings, including Columbine, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland, and Squirrel Hill – the Pittsburgh neighborhood served by the Tree of Life synagogue.

Then he spoke of the Godly and ungodly and of how they shall be separated like the wind driving the chaff from the wheat. “Long after the name of this ungodly person is forgotten,” he said of the Pittsburgh shooter, the lives of those slain “will remain alive in the hearts of all of here.”

He said “there will be discussions on who in politics draws us apart or on what effect the media is having, but no matter what happens, the way of the ungodly will perish. They will not take over our classes or our courtrooms. They may be present in our elections, but they will not take over the voting booths.”

A winnowing process is under way to separate the Godly from the ungodly, he said. “We are experiencing it now and I do not care how much we talk, how much we pray – unless we are willing to act. It is not funny when you put down my ethnicity or if someone puts down those of you,” he said, then cried out, “Oh, Jesus.”

The audience erupted with immediate applause and laughter, the crowd rising to its feet as he smiled and said, “I can’t help it. Sometimes I get carried away,” then added, “My dad said there are some things you only get to do once and I am taking advantage of it.”

Rabbi Hearshen drew his own laughter when he quipped moments later, “As rabbis,” he said to Rev. Golden, “we have to ask the congregation to rise.” That remark also brought the crowd to its feet.


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