Defiant Pittsburgh Jews gather for Shabbat services a week after killings

'We lost 11 people. We're all together to support each other'


On the first Shabbat after the shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, which claimed the lives of 11 congregants, local community members gathered behind the police tape cordoning off the building for an open air service.

Proceedings were interrupted to convey appreciation to a member of the FBI who had helped the chevrah kadisha, which oversees the preparation of bodies for burial according to Jewish law. An addition to the service was Al HaNissim, a Chanukah prayer commemorating perseverance in the face of oppression.

Students from Pittsburgh’s Hillel Academy had promoted the service through text messages. Its principal, Rabbi Sam Weinberg, said the gathering showed that, six days after "the most horrible and terrible thing happened, we can still come together as a people and recover a little bit of the peace of Shabbat".

On Shabbat morning, members of the three congregations which worship at Tree of Life were accommodated at the neighbouring Beth Shalom shul.

More than 1,000 people attended the service, which began with one minute and 11 seconds of silence at the exact time Rabbi Jeffrey Myers had called the emergency services a week previously.

“We all lost 11 people,” congregant Kevin Shevitz told local media. “We’re all together to support each other.”

Speaking before Shabbat, Adam Hertzman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh said: “The congregations want to be with each other.”


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