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Community gathers to remember victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting –

by Judith Hruz

Editor

Nearly 1,000 people of many faiths and backgrounds gathered at B’nai Shalom of Olney Oct. 30 to show that “the power of love is far greater than all forms of loveless power,” the Rev. Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman said during the vigil, which was held to remember the men and women who lost their lives in the mass shooting in Pittsburgh three days earlier.

The Olney vigil was held three weeks from the Greater Olney Interfaith Ministerium’s annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, which will be held Nov. 20. That organization was borne of an act of vandalism at B’nai Shalom in 2010.

Kaseman, the Interfaith Community liaison for the county’s Office of Community Partnerships, said he never before received the outpouring of support and love that he received in the days following the Pittsburgh shooting.

According to police, a lone gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill community of Pittsburgh and shot and killed 11 people who were worshipping. The first of the funerals were held the day of the Olney vigil.

The vigil featured prayers, songs, and words of condolence and hope.

Rabbi Dina Rosenberg of B’nai Shalom prayed with the audience for “the courage to go on without bitterness.”

She explained that the Mourner’s Kaddish, or Prayer, says nothing about death, but instead, speaks of “what comes next.”

“You, the people in the room, come next,” Rosenberg said.

Or, according to a line in a song, “All Praise the Living God,” “May we, together, build a true community.”

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Dist. 3) said people must “harness the best inside of us and our communities” to move forward.

“Hope is found in resistance to hate and violence,” Kaseman said.

 

Moving forward

 

Synagogues and Jewish schools in the county are closely monitoring the security of their facilities with the help of the Montgomery County Police Department and other law enforcement officials.

Rabbi Jonah Layman of Shaare Tefila Congregation in Olney said his synagogue’s security arrangements should stay confidential, but that he could share that the safety committee met “and has taken on new measures and procedures.”

He also said earlier this month that the county police department has been “incredibly supportive and we’ve seen an increased presence with a police officer on our property this past week.”

Rosenberg, of B’nai Shalom, said her synagogue’s security committee, executive director and executive board met immediately after the Pittsburgh massacre to re-evaluate security procedures.

She said county police will be present during Friday evening Shabbat events, Shabbat morning and religious school on Sundays and Wednesdays.

“We have already applied for one security stipend and we will continue to re-evaluate our practices to ensure that anyone entering into B’nai Shalom of Olney is identified and feels safe in their home away from home,” she said in an email.

As for the Oct. 30 vigil, Rosenberg said, “We are so deeply appreciative of the outpouring of support we had … We are thankful to the many congregants, community members, clergy, leaders of faith, police officers, firefighters and elected officials who walked into our sanctuary determined to stand together and love and strengthen one another.”

 

    The Greater Olney Interfaith Ministerium will hold its ninth annual Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service on Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Shaare Tefila Congregation, 16620 Georgia Ave., Olney. The theme is “good neighbors” and the guest speaker will be Marsha Weber of Olney Home for Life. All are welcome to attend and are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to Olney HELP.

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