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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Last Saturday, peace was shattered on Shabbat as a gunman opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Now as the sun sets and a new Shabat begins, many Jews are determined to show up for services.
“As we mourn, we also share hope,” Rabbi Larry Sernovitz of Congregation Nafshenu said.
Candles burn inside the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill to remember those slain at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. It’s been a week of mourning and now it’s time to light candles for Shabbat — the Jewish Sabbath — and resume community worship.
“Yeah we’re all on edge, there’s no question because the challenge for the Jewish community as well as so many other faith communities right now, is this could happen anywhere,” Rabbi Sernovitz said.
“The challenge is how do we make sure we don’t make this act of domestic terrorism win,” he said. “That we are not controlled by fear but we’re controlled by faith and hope and love.”
In an effort to increase safety, the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey has been working with local police and their 14 congregations to improve security measures.
“We’ve spoken with all different levels of law enforcement including the FBI,” Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey CEO Jennifer Dubrow-Wiess said. “We’ve spoken with the leaders from the community in Pittsburgh. We’ve listened to them and we’re trying to learn from them as they are going through this.”
To show they’re not afraid, non-Jews are invited to celebrate alongside them this Sabbath. In Philadelphia and South Jersey, passionate communities are rallying around the “Show Up For Shabbat”, or #ShowUpForShabbot, movement in the fight against Anti-Semitism.
Congregation Nafshenu plans an interfaith service Saturday morning at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Marlton. A fitting name since Shabbat is all about peace, or as Jews say, Shalom.
“What we hope and we pray on this Shabbat is that we can restore not only a sense of hope but we can restore a sense of what does it mean to be one,” Dubrow-Weiss said.
Police in Cherry Hill — as well as Voorhees — say they will have extra police this weekend, not only at synagogues, but all different houses of worship.
The #ShowUpForShabbat movement was created by the Global Jewish Advocacy to honor “the memory of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims.”
After receiving great support from the community, Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill is expecting a full house at Friday night’s Solidarity Shabbat.
“We are expecting a full house just as we had last Sunday at the community healing service we held in honor of the Pittsburgh tragedy,” said Erin Katz, Interim Membership Coordinator for Temple Emanuel. “At tonight’s Shabbat, we [will] all stand together as a united group in celebration of Shabbat and of our Jewish heritage. We will draw strength from one another and honor the lives lost in Pittsburgh.”
In Cherry Hill, the Congregation M’kor Shalom called for the community to join them at their solidarity event. “Rabbi Hirsh’s sermon will focus on “fragility and stability” in light of the tragic events of the past week,” officials stated on Facebook.
The Jewish Federacy of Greater Philadelphia has called on community members to take part in the Solidarity Shabbat. “Pray because we want to. Pray because we need to,” the federation wrote on Facebook in their call-to-action.
“I grew up in Pittsburgh and I was raised in Tree of Life synagogue that’s where I was bat mitzvahed went to Hebrew school, Sunday school three times a week,” said Kairol Rosenthal who attended Rodeph Shalom synagogue on Friday night.
“I am saddened I am sickened I am angered I wish I could say I’m in disbelief but I’m not – but I’m not scared,” said Rachelle Schneider, also of Rodeph Shalom.
The impact of the massacre was felt nationwide and reached over 300 miles to the Philadelphia-area. One of the victims, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, completed both his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. He was laid to rest Tuesday after his funeral at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill.
On Friday, the eldest victim Rose Mallinger, 97, was laid to rest.
Just hours after the shooting, the Philadelphia community gathered in Rittenhouse Square to mourn, express shock, and grieve together. Distance had no bearing on the community that it felt it was an attack on their faith.
“It’s an invasion of your safe space because I was also in service this morning,” said Vered Schwell of Lower Merion.
Others expressed outrage in light of the attacks.
“This is the worst act of Jewish terrorism ever in the United States,” said Steve Gartner of Penn Valley. “It’s extremely sad. We’re not fearful. Extremely angry.”
The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting is now considered the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in United States history, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
#ShowUpForShabbot also seeks to campaign against all forms of hate.
“We will rise to confront it with solidarity and determination,” officials from the Global Jewish Advocacy stated.”