Dr. Jerry Stein was attending Shabbat services at Congregation Ahavath Sholom this past Saturday when he heard about the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Saturday. He said the significance of the attack dawned on him as he was getting out his family’s decorations for Thanksgiving later that afternoon.
“This mixture of what I do as a Jew and what I do as an American is what all Jews do in Fort Worth,” Stein said. “I’m very saddened by this event both as a Jew and as an American. ... I’m very concerned about the attitudes of hatred that are so prevalent among so many individuals today.”
Stein, the president of the congregation, told nearly 1,000 people on Thursday evening at a specially organized prayer service that the synagogue received phone calls, emails and flowers from people and organizations “that felt a strong need to do something in light of the events that took place in Pennsylvania.”
Barbara Mccun, 65, said she identifies as Christian and felt it was necessary to join members of the Jewish congregation in attendance as a sign of solidarity.
“If we are separate, we are balkanized, we have no way to link arms and show support for another,” Mccun said. “Apart we’re weak, together we’re strong.”
Rabbi Andrew Bloom, who serves as a co-chairman on the city’s Race and Culture Task Force, led the interfaith service on Thursday that featured prayers from Pastor George Parsons of Eagle Mountain International Church and Vincent Simon, a representative of the Muslim community. Fort Worth city councilman Brian Byrd read a letter to the Jewish community on behalf of Mayor Betsy Price, followed by Assistant Chief of Police Edwin Kraus, who recited a prayer on behalf of local law enforcement.
Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville held a prayer service that was led by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker on Monday evening, according to NBC5. Cytron-Walker said the synagogue was packed and estimated that 400 people attended.
The suspect of the Pittsburgh shooting, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, pleaded not guilty to 44 counts of murder, hate crimes, obstructing religious practices and other crimes, according to The Associated Press.
Samantha Ratner, 15, Leah Bloom, 14, and Maya Kiselstein, 14, are all friends through the Hebrew school they attend together in Fort Worth. They said they were upset and angry by the attack in Pittsburgh. Kiselstein said she was humbled to have her classmates at school ask her how she was doing when they heard of the attack. Ratner was particularly disturbed to find out that her friend in Pennsylvania attends the synagogue across the street from Tree of Life.
“By coming together, we’re standing up against all the anti-Semitism and powering through it, and standing as one even through all that’s happened,” Ratner said.