Local congregations mourn Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims

'We weep over the incomprehensible loss of life'
Jeffrey and Marsha Strosberg, members of Temple Israel of Albany, hold each other during a prayer vigil on Sunday.
Jeffrey and Marsha Strosberg, members of Temple Israel of Albany, hold each other during a prayer vigil on Sunday.

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ALBANY — “We, your children, stand in grief with the devastated families of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh,” Rabbi David Eligberg said at the start of a prayer service Sunday night at Temple Israel.

 “We weep over the incomprehensible loss of life. We cry out in shock and pain amidst confusion. We mourn together over the senseless act of violence and destruction.”

Hundreds of people gathered for the service to mourn the 11 Jewish congregants killed in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Congregants from all over upstate, including Beth Shalom of Clifton Park, attended.

The service, led by Eligberg, touched on themes including divisiveness, and finding hope in the wake of a horrific event.

Rabbis from around the area read the names of the 11 victims, mostly senior citizens, and led a wordless song meant to allow attendees to find an outlet to express their sorrow over the situation without having to find words to use.

The rabbis also led the gathered congregations in song and prayer, before Eligberg ended the service with a plea that people of all denominations come together to face violence and division.

“Rekindle hope and trust and courage within us and within all those who have been touched by tragedy. Help us to sustain our belief in the promise that even in the darkest times, even when we feel most discouraged, there is reason to trust that love is never extinguished, and that light and spirit will prevail,” he said.

Local elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, and Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, joined Eligberg at the end of the service to lead a unity prayer.

Many organizations, both Jewish and otherwise, expressed their support for the victims on social media.

“We are heartbroken over this morning’s anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, located near the JCC Pittsburgh,” the Jewish Community Center of Schenectady said in a statement on Facebook on Saturday. “We have been in touch with local authorities in our community and they will be providing our JCC with increased patrols over the coming days. We, at the JCC, will continue to work to eliminate hate in our community in all of its forms. May the Almighty comfort the families of all of the victims among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

“As a community we are all horrified by the shooting [on] Shabbat morning at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Eleven innocent people were murdered in cold blood and others, including numerous police officers, were injured. The shooting shattered the tranquility of Shabbat and has left us all reeling. We grieve with the families of the victims and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded. We pray that all those affected, including police and first responders, the people of Pittsburgh and all of us, will be able to heal spiritually and emotionally from the wounds that such an attack inflicts,” Temple Israel of Albany said in a statement on Facebook.

Expressions of grief and support poured in on Saturday in the wake of the shooting, and New York state reacted quickly to the attack.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday asked state police, regional and local law enforcement to step up patrols around Jewish centers and houses of worship in response to the mass shooting. He also ordered that the flags in the state fly at half mast.

“I am directing that flags be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims of the hate-inspired shootings in Pittsburgh and Kentucky. We mourn for the victims, and I join with all New Yorkers to call for peace and civility and to denounce hate in all its forms,” Cuomo said on Twitter on Sunday. “The events of the past week do not represent who we are as a nation. The hateful rhetoric and violence are ripping at the fabric of America, and it must stop. In this hour of darkness, we must unite and not divide — and we must stand together against the corrosive forces of hate.”

Vigils will be held this week at various congregations, including a service in Schenectady. The Congregation Gates of Heaven announced it will host a “moment of solidarity” Monday night at 7 p.m. in response to the Pittsburgh shooting.

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