Jewish center holds vigil for victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published November 5, 2018

FERNDALE — Following the tragic shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue Oct. 27 in which 11 people were killed, a local rabbi held a vigil to honor the victims.

Rabbi Herschel Finman held a vigil outside Jewish Ferndale, 1725 Pinecrest Drive, to remember the people killed at the Tree of Life synagogue. Those who died were David Rosenthal, 54; Cecil Rosenthal, 59; Richard Gottfried, 65; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Irving Younger, 69; Daniel Stein, 71; Joyce Fienberg, 75; Bernice Simon, 84; Sylvan Simon, 86; Melvin Wax, 87; and Rose Mallinger, 97.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Finman said he knew “immediately” that he wanted to do something to honor the victims.

“Knowing in situations like this that there are people who are hurting and people asking questions … we felt that that had to be addressed right away,” he said.

The following day, Oct. 28, Finman held a vigil with state Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Huntington Woods; state Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield; Oakland County Commissioner Helaine Zack; City Councilwoman Melanie Piana; U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith; and Police Chief Vincent Palazzolo.

Finman said he wanted to share some words of encouragement with those in attendance, and for them not to feel depressed or despondent, but rather to use this moment as an opportunity.

“This is a time where people are showing solidarity — and it’s unfortunate because of a tragedy that people are showing solidarity — because we’re all together on the same page. That’s already a good thing, and to take that good thing and do other good things, to be fully resolved to make the world a better place and encouraging other people to be resolved,” he said.

In addition to the vigil held in Ferndale, Jewish communities in nearby cities including West Bloomfield, Bloomfield Township and Detroit also held memorials to remember the victims.

As one of two state legislators, alongside Moss, who are Jewish, Wittenberg said the vigil was tough and very sad, but that it was important for them to come together.

“There were a lot of people there that were holding hands, that were hugging, that were crying,” he said. “It was just good to be with people who care, who wanted to remember the people who were lost and come together just for good.”

Wittenberg also encouraged others, because the country seems so divided, to talk to friends and neighbors and have discussions with people. And for those in the political world, they need to come together and cross the aisle more, he said.

“Someone, just because they pray differently or they look differently, just because they talk differently, we need to reach out and understand and celebrate our differences,” he said.

In the Jewish religion, Wittenberg said, when someone passes, you say, “May their memory be a blessing,” and that’s why they came together to remember the 11 people that were lost.

“To just say we don’t want them to die in vain, that we are going to fight anti-Semitism and fight hatred and bigotry around the country, and we won’t let that stop us from being Jewish and celebrating our religion and praying the way we want to pray,” he said. “As both to remember them, to come together, to mourn their loss, but to also say that we have the resolve to move forward and honor them by praying the way we want to pray and embracing our Judaism.”

Moving forward after the tragic events in Squirrel Hill, Finman said, rather than deal with a response to such tragedy, they should work to set up an environment so such tragedies never happen.

“A lot of that involves a morals-based education, and people understand what the difference between right and wrong is,” he said. “It goes all the way back, I would say, to kindergarten. And that’s really where the changes have to happen. That’s really where the discussion needs to be focused.”