Thousands of Pittsburghers gathered at a vigil at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall on Sunday evening, to mourn and honor the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting. An overflow crowd stood outside, in the rain, listening to the memorial over speakers.
A variety of religious and political leaders spoke at the event, including three rabbis from Tree of Life.
“What happened yesterday will not break us,” said Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, of New Light Congregation, holding back tears. “It will not ruin us. We will continue...to sing and worship and learn together.”
“I am numb,” said Rabbi Cheryl Klein of Congregation Dor Hadash. “If I weren’t out of town celebrating Shabbat with my family, I would have been in the building.”
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers was leading services at Tree of Life at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, before the shooter entered: “I helped pull out the people I could in the front...seven of my congregants were shot dead in my sanctuary.”
“Words of hate are unwelcome in Pittsburgh,” Myers continued. After telling the crowd that change must start with the political leaders at the vigil—remarks which received the largest applause—the audience started chanting “Vote, vote, vote.”
The Jewish religious leaders were joined by leaders of other faiths.
“Our goal is to make Pittsburgh a place for immigrants and refugees to call home if they want to,” said Reverend John Welch, a chaplain for the Pittsburgh Police Bureau. “We can be the city of bridges that can bring together what others want to divide.”
Wasi Mohamed, the executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, said that the Muslim community raised $70,000 for the Jewish community in an online fundraiser: “We want to know what you need...the Muslim community will be there.”
Political leaders, both local and international, also addressed the audience.
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of diaspora affairs, told the crowd: “This is the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States...the tree of life will never be uprooted by hate.”
Mayor Bill Peduto received a standing ovation when he told the crowd that Pittsburgh will drive the hatred out of people in their basements on their computers. He also added that Pittsburgh will be a city of compassion, welcoming to all people.