Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith leaders gathered, along with many of their followers, at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township Tuesday night for a vigil to remember those slain in the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday, Oct. 27.

Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith leaders gathered, along with many of their followers, at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township Tuesday night for a vigil to remember those slain in the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday, Oct. 27.

Photo by Sean Work


Temple Beth El joins with Christians, Muslims to remember Squirrel Hill victims

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 31, 2018

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — It was about halfway through an interfaith vigil and night of remembrance Oct. 30 at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township that the Rev. Jasmine Smart, of Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church, said something perhaps surprising to the rows of mourners before her.

She apologized.

“I’m going to be candid,” the reverend began. “There have been some Christians, not all, throughout history, including some that may be known as founders in our tradition … that read in a way that vilified the Jewish people.”

Her point, she went on to explain, is that today, in the face of unthinkable violence like that of last week, when 11 people were murdered at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, faith leaders and their communities of worshipers need to emphasize a rule that all Abrahamic religions share: Love thy neighbor.

“Today we need a different reading. We need to read through the lens of love and openness and commit to unity.”

Smart was among several speakers to share words of comfort and hope during the vigil Oct. 30. The congregation welcomed the public and representatives from Breakers Covenant Church International in Detroit, Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church, St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Parish, Christ Church Cranbrook, Congregation Beth Ahm and the Muslim Unity Center.

The faith leaders all stressed that the anti-Semitism and hate that led shooter Robert Bowers to take the lives of nearly a dozen people and injure half a dozen more in a shooting spree can’t be taken on by one race or religion alone. It will take an army of tremendous love.

“These illnesses come from the same dark place,” said Imam Mohamed Almasmari, of the Muslim Unity Center. “It takes a village to overcome them.”

The packed house certainly represented that sentiment, with participants of different backgrounds filling the seats. That was highlighted when Temple Beth El Senior Rabbi Mark Miller asked guests to stand as he called out to those who were Christian, Jewish or Muslim, or who didn’t identify with a particular religion at all.

Moizuddin Mohammed, of Farmington Hills, attended the vigil with Moqeem Syed, of West Bloomfield. Their reason for coming was simple.

“We believe in unity of all people,” said Mohammed, originally of India. “We want to spread love; we want to see love.”

Between songs and solace and, as the rabbi said, God’s first language of silence, participants entered the temple with grief, but they were encouraged to walk away hopeful, that they could be part of a solution to end violence and keep communities free of hatred and racism.

“We should not be people who ignore one another, who distrust one another and hate one another,” Smart continued. “Although we cannot choose the stories we have inherited, we can choose the story we become. Let that story be that we are for the good, that we embrace it.”

Before the crowd parted ways, 11 candles were lit in honor of those who were killed at Tree of Life Synagogue Oct. 27. Two more candles were lit to remember Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones, who were shot at a grocery store that same day in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, reportedly for being black.

“We light these two candles, of course, because even though we’re here this evening experiencing the pain of our particular community, there was more violence on the same day. Not just violence, but (loss of life) simply because of who these two individuals were. They were killed just because they were black,” said Miller. “So many victims, so much pain. These lights represent only a small part of what we have experienced as a community and what those around the country continue to experience. We hope to take their memories, hope to raise them high … and hold us to a higher standard of being.”

“I’m so glad I came,” Nancy Bluth, of Bloomfield Hills, said to her companion, Nancy Solway, of Bloomfield Township, as the two left the vigil. “It was just an outpouring of community support. It was really special.”