Chicagoland

Religious leaders call for unity following Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
November 7, 2018

Religious leaders call for unity following Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Cardinal Cupich joined Jewish leaders and representatives of the Protestant tradition and of Islam in condemning the anti-Semitism that led to the killing of 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Oct. 27. The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago hosted the event.
Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, reflects during a service in remembrance of the Tree of Life Synagogue victims held Nov. 1 at the Swissotel in downtown Chicago. The service was organized by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, and Cardinal Cupich talk prior to a Npv. 1 rememebrance service for the victims of the Treet of Life Synagogue shooting. Hundreds of people, including local faith and civic leaders, participated in the service at the Swissotel in downtown Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich gives his reflections during a Nov. 1 service in remembrance of the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich gives his reflections during a Nov. 1 service in remembrance of the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, and Cardinal Cupich reflect during a service in remembrance of the Tree of Life Synagogue victims held Nov. 1 at the Swissotel in downtown Chicago. The service was organized by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Rabbi Wendy Geffen of North Shore Congregation Israel greets Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago; Cardinal Cupich; and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after speaking at the interfaith solidarity gathering in remembrance of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting victims held Nov. 1 at the Swissotel in downtown Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A student from the Ida Crown Jewish Academy reads the name of one of the victims of the Tree of Life Synanguge shooting at an interfaith solidarity gathering Nov. 1 at the Swissotel in downtown Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Cardinal Cupich joined Jewish leaders and representatives of the Protestant tradition and of Islam in condemning the anti-Semitism that led to the killing of 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Oct. 27. The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago hosted the event.

The cardinal offered his condolences to the Jewish community, “our elder brothers and sisters in faith,” at the Nov. 1 interfaith solidarity gathering at the Swissotel Chicago, 323 E. Wacker Drive. Then he called on people to work to stop such violence.

“With this attack a line has been crossed,” he said. “We need to act, first by naming the evil of anti-Semitism and doing everything in our power to eradicate it — but we also need to call out the conditions and rhetoric that support it. This twisted ideology has never been, is not, and will never be acceptable, and it is incumbent upon people of all faiths and none to stand against it.

“We must recommit ourselves to providing our schools and places of worship with the resources they need to see anti-Semitism for what it is: not only an affront to the human dignity of our Jewish brothers and sisters, but also a threat to the peace and mutual trust without which communities collapse. Nothing short of a systemic commitment to eradicating all forms of prejudice and hate will reverse the rising tide of prejudice in our day.”

Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund, said anti-Semitism has existed for centuries. “Before us are new toxic strains of this old disease, where Jews are demonized and attacked just for being Jews,” he said.

The remedy, he said, is for members of all groups to stand together.

“Any assault on one group is an assault on all,” he said. “At a time of terrible divisions in our country, let unity be our clarion call.”

The standing-room-only audience included civic dignitaries such as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, his Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker, members of congress and state, county and city officials.

The only politician to speak was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the son of Israeli immigrants.

Emanuel recalled other attacks on people at houses of worship, from Sikhs in Wisconsin to members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and members of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

“They were practicing more than their individual faith,” Emanuel said. “They were practicing their faith in America, because America introduced the world to the concept of religious freedom.”

Emanuel also noted that Robert Bowers, who pleaded not guilty to 44 counts in a federal court Nov. 1, reportedly targeted the synagogue because he objected to its support of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which assists refugees.

“In 1885, it was the Jews who were the refugees,” Emanuel said. The victims, he said, “knew that to be Jewish was to extend their hand to another generation of immigrants.”

Students from Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Skokie read the names of those killed and injured in the Pittsburgh shooting. The dead include: brothers David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59; husband and wife, Sylvan and Bernice Simon, ages 86 and 84; Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Rose Mallinger, 97; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; and Irving Younger, 69. Eight others were injured, including four police officers.

Bowers reportedly shouted that “all Jews must die” before entering the synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of the city and opening fire. Squirrel Hill is home to many synagogues and Orthodox Jews. Police said he was armed with three handguns and an AR-15 “style” weapon. He is believed to have acted alone.

Bowers was apprehended after a shootout with police. He was hospitalized and treated for his injuries. He is being held without bail.

Topics:

  • gun violence
  • interfaith

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