Solidarity Shabbat honors victims of Pittsburgh shooting

Elon’s multi-faith community gathered Nov. 2 in the Sacred Space to stand against hate and show their support for the Jewish community.

Dozens of Elon students, faculty, staff and alumni from across faiths came together Friday afternoon in the Sacred Space to bless Shabbat and take a collective stand against prejudice.

The special Solidarity Shabbat provided an opportunity for members of the Elon community to honor the memories of the victims of the Oct. 27 shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 people dead.

Rabbi Sandra Lawson, associate chaplain for Jewish life, led the service. “Last Shabbat on Saturday morning we witnessed the deadliest act of antisemitism in our nation’s history,” Lawson said. “This Shabbat, we are responding with our greatest show of solidarity. We are in solidarity with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, and tonight at synagogues, community centers, colleges, universities and homes across North America, we’re gathering together in prayer, compassion and unity as one people.”

Attendees at the service offered traditional prayers to welcome the Sabbath, as well as prayers and songs often recited during times of mourning. In addition to Shabbat candles, a memorial candle was lit to recognize the victims.

When President Connie Ledoux Book addressed the group, she said her initial reaction to the news of the shooting was anger and tremendous sadness. She encouraged the Elon community to confront bias and discrimination when they see it, to reject hate and to respect and learn from one another.

“These hateful and horrific acts remind us there are people who do not share our values and in fact incite violence against people, raise fears and tear at the very fabric of our community, our country and our hope,” Book said. “One thing that stands clear at Elon in the middle of this learning environment we’ve created is that we fully understand that we’re better as a country, as a world, together. Our community is created by people from all over the world with a wide host of beliefs, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations and worldviews. We understand that diversity is a powerful, beautiful thing.”

Members of the community were also invited to share reflections about how they have processed the existence of such hateful acts, and how they have found comfort in the outpouring of love and compassion from the community. Attendees heard from several speakers with direct connections to the Tree of Life Synagogue, as well as from Father Peter Tremblay, associate chaplain for Catholic life.

“One of the great joys of my ministry and one of the great joys that has come to me through my time at Elon has been the fact that every semester I’ve been able to participate in a celebration where Catholics, Christians, Muslims gather with our Jewish brothers and sisters to celebrate a meal, to celebrate our faith and to share our deepest selves,” Tremblay said. “A few hours before the terrible evil that occurred this past Saturday, we did just that. We gathered at the Hillel house, where students cooked wonderful food and we shared our faith.”

Attendees also read the names and ages of the 11 people who lost their lives Oct. 27 at Tree of Life Synagogue before reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish, a prayer in remembrance of loved ones who have passed.