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One Week After Tree Of Life Shooting, Jews And Non-Jews Gather For Saturday Services

Sarah Boden
90.5 WESA
Outside of Rodef Shalom, where Jews and non-Jews gathered for Saturday services one week after the shooting at nearby Tree of Life Synagouge.

Jews and non-Jews gathered Saturday at Rodef Shalom, a reform synagogue in Pittsburgh, one week after a shooting at nearby Tree of Life where 11 people were killed.

Usually, services are held in Rodef Shalom’s small chapel, but this week the synagogue used its larger sanctuary. More than half of the 1,100 seats were filled.

On her way into Rodef Shalom, Terri Gleuck passed by a group from Morningside's Catholic St. Raphael Parish, who held signs with messages of support.

“They were really what this whole morning was about,” said Gleuck. “It’s just the coming together of everyone. And it was incredibly moving and very spiritually uplifting.”

Gleuck said mornings like these, which bring together a community, are needed to combat the hatred which allegedly inspired the gunman.

At one point, Rabbi Sharyn Henry asked those who were guests to Rodef Shalom to stand. More than a third of those gathered rose.

“We’re very grateful that you’re here … I feel we’re 100 percent safe,” Henry told them. “Your presence gives us strength and comfort.”

During the service a mourner's prayer known as Kaddish was read, as well as the names of people who have recently died, including those who were killed on Saturday.

After the service, people gathered for kiddish, the traditonal post-Shabbat meal. Congregants and guests mixed while munching on fruit and pastries.

“All of us are linked through the Abrahamic tradition, Christians and Jews and Muslims. All of us are really like cousins,” said Erin Angeli of Sharpsburg, a pastoral resident at The Commonwealthin Oakland, a Presbyterian church.

While the morning was peaceful, a couple people referenced President Trump, whose recent visit to Pittsburgh drew protests. Some argue the president is partly responsible for the shooting due to his incendiary rhetoric, in which he often singles out minority groups.

“There’s been so much talk about words matter, well words on both sides,” said Glueck. “Words matter that are unkind and dehumanizing. And words matter on the other side, that kindness and the outpouring of real, human, deep love. That matters too.”

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.