S.A. Memorial Service for Synagogue Shooting Victims Attracts Hundreds

San  Antonio’s Jewish community and its inter-faith supporters on Tuesday  evening together made a strong stand against extremism, violence and  anti-Semitism, WOAI reports. 

An  estimated 1,600 people attended the local memorial service at Temple  Beth-El just north of downtown for victims of Saturday’s synagogue  attack in Pittsburgh that left 11 victims dead and six others wounded.  Two police officers who responded to the mass shooting are among those  still hospitalized. 

The  service featured music, readings of the names and short biographies of  each of the dead, prayers, and messages of hope, encouragement,  inclusion and resilience from local Jewish leaders and Mayor Ron  Nirenberg. 

Former mayor and Obama-era Housing and Urban Development  Secretary Julian Castro, Republican Congressman Will Hurd, and area law  enforcement officials also were in attendance. 

Temple  Beth-El Rabbi Mara Nathan said the sizable contingent of non-Jews  present offers reassurance in an era of rising nationalism and resurgent  anti-Semitism. 

“It  just makes me feel really good about San Antonio, that even at a really  horrible and hard moment that we have friends to support us,” Nathan  said, adding that community and spirituality can still be a strong  counter to vitriol, threats, persecution, or worse. 

“The  only thing we have is each other and our humanity, and when we are  faced with hate, the only thing we can do is fight back with love,”  Nathan said.

Local Jewish Federation CEO Ronit Sherwin also drew comfort from the large and diverse turnout. 

 “After  tragedy we want to say, ‘Look, well, what can we do?’ and the truth is,  we have to continue living on, and living with strength,” Sherwin said. 

The  Rev. Nancy Kuhn,, a retired Episcopal priest who just returned to the  Alamo City after serving in the Diocese of West Texas, was part of the  contingent of Christian clergy in attendance. 

She said she worries about  future attacks on worship centers in the United States. 

“I think a lot of people of good faith and good will are working as best they can, but it’s always hard to combat evil.  “I just hate to see the ‘tribal’ quality that is coming forth all over  the world,” Coon said. “It’s based in fear, fear of ‘the other.’ ” 

During  the service, leaders of the inter-faith community, elected leaders, and  first responders took to the stage and joined the crowd in singing  “This Land is Your Land.” 

Local Jewish college students also lit candles for each of the 11 Tree of Life congregants killed in the attack. 

Shortly  after the shootings Pittsburgh police arrested a suspect, identified as  46-year-old Robert Bowers. Authorities say Bowers posted numerous  anti-Jewish messages online before entering the synagogue and shouting  his hatred for Jews while opening fire with an assault-style rifle.  

Investigators say he continued to shout his hatred for Jews as he  exchanged gunfire with officers.  Officials  say the Tree of Life Synagogue incident, in an area of Pittsburgh known  as Squirrel Hill, is the most deadly attack on Jews in U.S. history.  Prosecutors say they will pursue the death penalty in the case.

PHOTO: Members  of San Antonio's inter-faith community, elected officials, first  responders and Jewish leaders led a diverse crowd estimated at about  1,600 in singing "This Land is Your Land" during Tuesday evening's  memorial service at Temple Beth-El near downtown for the victims of  Saturday's Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh.  Authorities say the weekend attack is the worst aimed at Jews in U.S.  history. Photo by Morgan Montalvo

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