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