This story has been edited to reflect the following clarification: The ceremony remembered those killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting as well as two people who were shot and killed at a Kentucky grocery store.
ELYRIA — Members from various Lorain County churches, plus several from Sandusky and Parma, gathered together Friday night inside the Temple B’Nai Abraham to remember and pray for the 11 people who died as a result of a shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27.
It was their way, according to Rabbi Lauren Werber of Temple B’Nai Abraham, to show Elyria, as well as Lorain County and beyond, that while Jews may worship differently, they want the same end result — peace.
President of Temple B’Nai Abraham Jay Schmitt said after the horrific hate crime — and one of the deadliest attacks on Jews in the United States — people from all walks of faith reached out to the Elyria Jewish community, wanting to know how they could help.
“They called us and messaged us on Facebook,” Schmitt said. “The Christian community reached out to us.”
By Oct. 30, Werber and Schmitt knew what they had to do — open their doors for Friday night Shabbat services to allow anyone and everyone the opportunity to pray together.
Throughout the service of solidarity, prayers and hymns, in both Hebrew and English, were read and sang aloud after Werber said each of the 11 names for the congregation to hear.
Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger were gunned down Oct. 27 while they were worshipping. The names of Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones were also read aloud. They were shot and killed at a grocery store near Louisville on Oct. 24.
That act is what gave pause to Werber.
“How sad that our sanctuary brings us vulnerability,” Werber said.
But standing before nearly 100 guests inside the temple, Werber found her strength.
“You have declared that we are not alone. May our presence and prayers honor the memories of victims of hate everywhere and inspire us to build a more loving world,” Werber said.
Werber said that so many times people are fixated on their differences, but what brings them together are their similarities.
As the rows of pews filled, forcing guests to sit in chairs toward the back of the sanctuary, it became evident to Werber and Schmitt that Jews are not in the fight against hate crimes alone.
“By you being here shows us that we are not alone. You are holding us up,” Werber said. “This is what it means to be a community. We rely on tradition, and we want to share those with you tonight.”
Schmitt said the focus of the night was to bring people of different faiths together who want to show the world that even in the act of violence, people will not break.
“That’s the whole idea,” he said. “We don’t know who they are or what faith they represent. Anti-Semitism has been around since the dawn of creation. But, we have more similarities than differences in our world.”