Synagogues across the country opened their doors for solidarity services over the weekend, including one in Naples.
As the sun slipped past the horizon, so began the first Sabbath since the mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“Here at Temple Shalom, in recent days, we’ve received notes and flowers from the broader community," Rabbi Adam Miller said. "More than one person offered to gather their friends together to stand around our building so that anybody who entered would feel safe knowing that they are protected and not alone.”
Miller spoke to the crowd of more than 1,500 people of all faiths, while, in an adjoining room, hundreds more watched on a big screen. And, that’s not counting all of Temple Shalom’s live stream viewers Friday night.
Many parishioners stood for the nearly three-hour service in the limited space, as rabbi after pastor after imam spoke about their shared God’s beliefs about hatred and, more importantly, about healing.
But, when Temple Shalom’s executive director Deborah Fidel took the stage, her words were not from God or from herself. She, instead, read her youngest son’s college application essay, which he wrote back home in Squirrel Hill just days after the shooting.
“The place where my brother become a bar mitzvah is now a crime scene," Fidel read. "The place where we asked God on Yom Kippur to be written and sealed in the book of life is filled with the stench of death.”
Josh, a senior in high school, writes that he first became aware of the threat of pervasive gun violence, after the shooting in Parkland. By the end of his essay though, he comes around to the point that the healing is also universal in such tragedies.
“On the same day that violence defiled a once sacred space, 2,000 people showed up on a cold, rainy night. I saw people of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds with their arms around one another, voices lifted and song and prayer. Even on such a terrible day, I was reminded that there are many more good people than bad.”
Rabbi Miller had a similar message to share after the Shabbat service.
“God-willing, we’ll be gathering this community, not for a moment of solidarity around something tragic that’s happened but for a moment of celebration together for accomplishing and building together the community that we all want to live in.”
As the service ended, those in the crowd wrapped their arms around their loved ones and swayed along to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”