An interfaith gathering in Chicago’s Federal Plaza on Sunday mourned the murder of 11 people inside the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. The mass shooting is believed to be the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history.
Joining the Morning Shift to offer their thoughts on the tragedy and its impact on their congregations are two rabbis: Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis of Makom Shalom and Rabbi Evan Moffic of Congregation Solel.
Reactions from the community
Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis: “I was on the street, actually, talking about the current situation in America ― the political situation. And I happened to talk to another Jewish person and she gave me the news. And it was a shock ― my heart went cold, and I ran into some more neighbors who happened to be Jewish and it was all we could talk about. And right after that, the conversation started with the leadership of my congregation. I sent out a letter to my congregation late Saturday and the responses came pouring in. ‘I have childhood friends in Squirrel Hill.’ ‘I’m from Pittsburgh’…people want to be together, and to respond with strength.”
Rabbi Evan Moffic: “The initial part was: What are we doing to make sure that we’re safe? So we’ve had some security protocols, but we’ve done several more. But perhaps the more important part really is just some spiritual comfort. We had a vigil service in solidarity Sunday morning at 9:15 that packed the sanctuary, which I didn’t expect. People of all ages, people who I haven’t seen come to services in years, actually. So just comforting people and talking, and trying to understand how could this happen?”
Davis: “My synagogue meets in a church. I was thinking about the congregation in Pittsburgh where three different Jewish congregations worship in the same house of worship and Rabbi Moffic and I have led services together in our respective congregations, and my congregation meets in a Methodist church, which also hosts a Catholic group. And Makom Shalom has stood with Muslims
― the mosque in Bridgeview ― when they were threatened, I formed a human shield around the mosque so that the Muslims inside could pray with peace of mind because we were standing outside. And we’ve done similar projects; we are stronger because we stand together. The most heartwarming messages I’ve received in the last two days have been from the pastor of the previous church where we met, who has spoken out forcefully on behalf of Jewish safety, and my Muslim friends, who are now showing their support for us after we’ve shown them support. I never thought this day would come. I always thought that, when I was planning as a rabbi with Muslims, it was because Jews had arrived. I have my own history: I’m a child of Holocaust survivors, and I was doing my responsibility to others, and now we’re receiving. And that’s a beautiful thing that we’re all stronger together.”
On fighting anti-semitism
Moffic: “I don’t think there’s ever a cure. I think in some ways, human beings ― I mean, this is sort of classical Freud ― there’s got to be a scapegoat. But I do think that it’s something that can be addressed, and it’s something that, as Rabbi Davis pointed out, it’s people coming together. You know, the victim can’t always solve the crime, so Jews are not responsible for stopping antisemitism. It needs to be in partnership with others who realize that when Jews are targeted, that means that other minorities are targeted….Jews are often the miner’s canary of a society. When there’s attacks against Jews, you know there’s going to be attacks against others. And I think that’s what you’re seeing in our society.”
GUESTS: Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis, Makom Shalom
Rabbi Evan Moffic, Congregation Solel
LEARN MORE: Harrowing accounts from Pittsburgh synagogue shooting; suspect due in court (Chicago Tribune 10/29/18)