“There are very few ways to fight hate, except through love and unity,” said Rabbi Steven Graber of Temple Hillel in North Woodmere. “We’re here together hoping that it will somehow help us to start to heal as well as to be able to send a message to the families of the victims as well as the rest of America that we care.”
On Oct. 31, rather than answering their doors for ghosts and goblins, more than 400 people were confronting a different sort of nightmare at a prayer vigil hosted by Temple Hillel. The event was in honor of the 11 people who were murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Oct. 27.
There were clergy and congregation members from various local houses of worship in attendance, including The Presbyterian Church of Valley Stream, Masjid Hamza and Holy Name of Mary church.
Together they prayed and listened as the speakers, who included both clergy and elected officials, harped on the idea that people of all religions should unite. “The Muslims and our Muslim community all over the United States, bar none, feel the pain of the Jewish community,” said Gohar Ayub, who represented Masjid Hamza at the vigil. “We are here to stand with you and show support and to let the Jewish community know that you’re not in this alone.”
To prove his point, Ayub spoke about how the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh raised $195,000 to help the victims’ families. He also said that, according to the Quran, murdering one innocent person is equivalent to murdering all of humanity.
“This was nothing less of a terrorist act,” Ayub said.
Robert Gregory Bowers, the suspected shooter, had a history of posting phrases and conspiracy theories used by white supremacists on social media. In the weeks leading up to the murders he made anti-Semitic posts directed towards the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a non-profit organization that provides assistance to refugees. He reportedly claimed that HIAS was helping people from Central America seek asylum in the United States to kill white people.
The attack was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States. Graber urged all attendees to visit a synagogue over the weekend to show solidarity and support for Pittsburgh and the Jewish community at large.
Johanna Lovalvo, a Valley Stream resident, said she thought the vigil had a positive effect on those who attended. “I really believe this is something that will stick in our minds long after we leave here,” she said. “It will give us the courage to change things.”