Saratoga Springs

A week later, prayer service recalls Pittsburgh victims

'We live in dangerous times'
Rabbi Kenneth Blatt speaks during a prayer service Nov. 4 at Congregation Shaara Tfille.
Rabbi Kenneth Blatt speaks during a prayer service Nov. 4 at Congregation Shaara Tfille.

A week later, area synagogues continue to hold prayer and memorial services to mourn the 11 Jewish congregants killed in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

One service,held Sunday evening at Congregation Shaara Tfille in Saratoga Springs, touched on the necessity of moving forward from the shooting with hope, but also addressed what is an ever-present threat of anti-Semitism and overall racism in the United States, said Rabbi Kenneth Blatt.

“We live in dangerous times,” Blatt said at the beginning of the service. “There’s no question that a small and radical fringe of racists and white supremacists feel emboldened enough to attack a house of worship and attack people who are in the process of praying.”

Blatt added that the Oct. 27 shooting in Pittsburgh is only the most recent example of a wave of anti-Semitism and hatred toward others based on their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

“The false sense of security that we derived from the assumption that those kinds of things don’t happen here, that somehow American society has moved away from that kind of behavior, has been torn asunder. Racism is alive and well in the United States,” Blatt said.

Judith Ehrenshaft, president of the board of Congregation Shaara Tfille, agreed with Blatt. And while she emphasized that healing from the Pittsburgh tragedy can and will happen, she added that the shooting was writing on the wall with a direct message: That no one is safe.

“Our hearts ache for the 11 murdered victims. Why were they killed? Only because they were Jews,” she said.

Eleven candles were lit by members of the congregation during the service: one for each person who lost their life in Pittsburgh. The names of the victims were read out loud in alphabetical order.

Pamela Polar, a member of the congregation, said they opted to have the service a week after the tragedy with the intention of keeping the memory of the 11 victims at the forefront of people’s minds.

“Early vigils express outrage and sadness. Later, we can continue to remember them,” she said.

Over the last week, hundreds of people gathered across the Capital Region for services to remember the victims. 

At the conclusion of the service, Blatt announced that the candles would be sent to the Tree of Life Synagogue.

A book filled with signatures from the Saratoga congregation will be sent to Pittsburgh as well, along with any financial donations made by Shaara Tfille congregants.

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