Farmington vigil honors victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
Organizer asks residents to speak out against hatred
FARMINGTON — As mourners in Pittsburgh attend the funerals for the 11 people who were killed during at shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday, communities around the country are gathering to show their support and to condemn hatred and anti-Semitism.
The attack on Saturday is believed to be the deadliest attack against Jews in the United States in the history of the country.
A candlelight vigil Tuesday drew a small crowd to Orchard Park in Farmington. The gathering at Orchard Park began with the singing of “We Shall Overcome” and ended with the mourner's kaddish, a Jewish prayer of mourning
Laura Marshall, one of the vigil’s organizers, asked the community to pledge to speak out against hatred and bigotry in the Four Corners area. Marshall, who is Jewish, led the crowd in the mourner's kaddish.
At the beginning of the vigil, she referenced the Talmud, saying, “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world, and whoever saves a life it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe spoke before the mourners kaddish. He encouraged people to look for good in the times of tragedy.
“It’s our humanity that binds us together,” Hebbe said.
Hebbe said the doctors and nurses who saved the shooter Robert Bower’s life in Pittsburgh were Jewish.
Fellowship of the Spirit Rev. George Harris encouraged people to look for the love rather than focusing on the hatred and fear.
“We talk about love and fear, that all there is is love and fear in our thoughts,” he said. “We get to choose. But, actually, I like to tell my congregation that all there is is love. The rest we’ve made up.”
Farmington First Presbyterian Church Rev. Megan Cullip quoted a New York Times article describing Bower as a “ghost” who was virtually unknown to his neighbors.
“Though we in no way want to diminish the shooter’s own grave responsibility for this evil mass murder, one must wonder what we can learn from Mr. Rogers about being a neighbor to the many who are isolated, who are like ghosts living next door,” she said.
Legendary children's television host Fred Rogers, who grew up in the Squirrel Hill community in Pittsburgh, where the shooting took place, was one of three figures Cullip urged people to look to as an example. On his show, Rogers taught children about being good neighbors.
“We’re all responsible in some way to be light bearers in this world,” Cullip said.
Other figures she highlighted as examples were Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and the Biblical prophet Isaiah.
Cullip spoke about visiting Salem, Massachusetts, where infamous witch hunts took place in the 17th century. She said Wiesel dedicated a monument there in 1992. Cullip said in his dedication speech Wiesel said, “If I can’t stop all of the hate all over the world in all of the people, I can stop it in one place — within me.”
Cullip read from a 1936 essay by American author Albert Jay Nock called “Isaiah’s Job,” which was published in The Atlantic. In the essay, Nock distinguishes between the masses, which he described as lost, and the remnant.
Cullip said Isaiah’s job, as described by Nock, was to take care of the remnant, who, “when everything has gone to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build a new society.”
“I’d like to suggest that, like Isaiah, our job is to take care of the remnant,” she said.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.