Park City gathers to honor the victims of synagogue shooting
Temple Har Shalom on Monday evening held a memorial service honoring the victims of a Saturday shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, drawing on Jewish traditions and Americana as a crowd of disparate faiths prayed alongside each other, wept and expressed a determination to stand together against hatred.
The service, quickly organized in response to the Pittsburgh deaths, drew approximately 400 people to the pews of the Snyderville Basin synagogue. Many in the audience were from the Park City area, but the crowd also appeared to include people from the Wasatch Front.
Temple Har Shalom Rabbi David Levinsky and leaders of other faiths spoke of the losses in Pittsburgh and told the audience of the importance of unity after the deaths of 11 people at Tree of Life synagogue. Some of the people in the audience were crying. The rabbi in his remarks to the crowd said he saw Jews, Christians, Muslims and people who do not belong to a faith saddened by the deaths.
“We come together tonight to mourn the losses of the Jewish people. We’ve come together today to speak out against hate-inspired violence no matter who is the target — black, Muslim, Latino, Jew,” Levinsky said. “And we’ve come here today because hatred demands a response and hatred demands action, and we will take action. We will ensure that nothing like this ever happens in our community.”
Levinsky’s brief remarks also touched on the lessons of the children’s television program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and its host, Fred Rogers. He said the program educated him of the emotions someone can feel. The deaths in Pittsburgh stir the emotions, he said.
“He taught me that it’s OK to feel sad, taught me that it’s OK to feel scared and he taught me that it’s OK to feel angry. And many of us feel one or all of those things right now,” the rabbi said.
Representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Christian Center of Park City, the Utah Islamic Center, the United Jewish Federation of Utah, Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Community Center attended on behalf of their faiths or organizations. The representatives offered sympathies to the Jewish people, spoke of the heartbreak and said they stand with Jews.
“May love win the day,” Rob Harter, the executive director of the Christian Center of Park City, said in his remarks to the crowd.
The rabbi solemnly recited the names and ages of the people slain in Pittsburgh, lighting candles for those killed. He led the crowd in reciting, in Hebrew, the Jewish prayer for the dead, known as the Kaddish. It was one of the gathering’s solemn moments. Levinsky, accompanied by the other religious leaders, sang the Woody Guthrie folk anthem “The Land is Your Land.”
Summit County Councilor Roger Armstrong was in the audience at Temple Har Shalom on Monday evening. Armstrong in an interview said the gathering was an important one for the Park City area, describing it as “exactly what the community needs.”
“I think an event like this shakes (a) community to the very core,” Armstrong said, adding, “I couldn’t be prouder. … This is who we are.”
The rabbi in an interview said his role includes working against the feelings that lead to acts like the one in Pittsburgh.
“What I’m here to do as a faith leader is to try to ensure that hatred doesn’t inspire violence against anyone, whether Jewish, whether Latino, whether black,” adding, “As a community we have a responsibility to make sure this kind of hatred and violence don’t become a part of our society.”
He said it “means a lot” to the Jewish people to have the broad community of Park City standing with them to say “this is not what we want happening in our country.” He addressed the idea of despair at a time of loss.
“I feel despair like everybody else. One of the things that religion teaches, and that Judaism teaches, is that even at the most profound times of despair we cannot abandon hope,” he said. “That’s what it is to be human, is that incredibly sad things happen in our lives, and at the same time we need to maintain hope and that hope needs to inspire us to action.”
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