Shabbat services around the world were spilling out the doors Saturday morning, just one week after a deadly shooting left 11 Jewish worshipers dead at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill region of Pittsburgh.
In solidarity with the victims of the shooting, the American Jewish Committee, a global Jewish advocacy organization, launched the social media campaign encouraging people of all faiths to attend Shabbat services the Saturday following the tragic incident.
The suspect, Robert Bowers, pleaded not guilty Thursday to 44 indictments, including federal hate crime charges, that accuse him of killing 11 people and injuring six others as they tried to practice their religion. He could face the death penalty.
“I encourage all members of the Jewish community and all people of conscience across our country to join me,” AJC CEO David Harris said in a statement. “What could be a more fitting response to the terror in Pittsburgh?”
Synagogues from Los Angeles to London, U.K. heeded the call.
Synagogues in cities across the United States participated in the campaign, and representatives from many of these districts took to social media to show their support.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator for the state of California, also shared her thoughts on the campaign Saturday morning.
“It’s a testament to what we have in common that so many people of different faiths are coming together to support the Jewish community after last week’s attack,” she tweeted.
The Mayor of Pittsburgh noted on Twitter how many Christians and Muslims attended a Shabbat service at the Rodef Shalom synagogue Friday night.
“I was at Rodef Shalom tonight for Shabbat services. The Executive Director of Pittsburgh’s Islamic Center received a standing from the congregation. There were dozens of Christians & Muslims there,” Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted.
The Central Synagogue in New York city livestreamed their sabbath Shabbat service, as they do every other week. NYPD officers patrolled synagogues across New York City as citizens gathered Friday night and Saturday morning to worship — many of whom were guests attending for the first time.
In addition, synagogues across the Manhattan region reported higher-than-expected turnout rates for their weekly Shabbat service as well.
Several Toronto synagogues also participated in the #ShowUpForShabbat campaign, including the Temple Sinai on Wilson Ave., and the Village Shul on Eglinton Avenue West and City Shul reform synagogue downtown.
The Toronto-based Temple Sinai called on the members of their communities — Jewish or not — to come together against hate.
“We urge you to join us and speak out against anti-Semitism and hatred. Invite a friend, or neighbour, Jew, or non-Jew. This Shabbat is for Pittsburgh,” a Facebook post by the temple read.
Asked about how the Jewish community is dealing with the tragedy, Rabbi Tzvi Sytner with the Village Shul told Global News that events such as these are commonplace in Jewish history.
“This is the story of the Jewish people. This is 3,300 years of pogroms and holocausts and all other anti-Semitic events that have taken place in history,” he said. “A gunman wanted to bring hate into the world, but we are going to respond with love.”
North American synagogues weren’t alone in their support of the movement. Jewish communities in the U.K. saw higher turnouts also in solidarity with the campaign. London Synagogue and the Liberal Jewish Synagogue are just two of the many temples that participated.
As support for #ShowUpForShabbat poured in on social media from around the world and synagogues continued to see record attendance rates, a common Jewish greeting began gaining traction online as well.
“Shabbat Shalom,” a Hebrew salutation meaning “Sabbath [of] peace,” was exchanged on Twitter between members of the Jewish community in the aftermath of the shooting last Saturday.
Since then, the phrase has made its way into the social sphere on a broader scale, being shared by countless prominent writers, celebrities and politicians.
“We waited hours in the rain to be able to pray for those who lost their lives for their faith. They will never enter a synagogue again. We will. And we will live for what they died for,” political commentator Geocanny Vicente Romero said on Twitter Friday night.
As Jews around the world stand together this morning to mark the one-week anniversary of a hate-fueled massacre, a quiet-but-growing online movement is wishing them peace this sabbath, and every sabbath to come.
–With files from the Associated Press.
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