Lights fill the room at a memorial service Oct. 29 at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield. The service was quickly organized 0by local Jewish youth groups in response to the anti-Semitic mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Lights fill the room at a memorial service Oct. 29 at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield. The service was quickly organized 0by local Jewish youth groups in response to the anti-Semitic mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Photo by Sean Work


Local Jewish community stands strong following Pittsburgh shooting

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published November 1, 2018

 Bebe Schaeffer, 16, of Farmington Hills, lights a candle during the service.

Bebe Schaeffer, 16, of Farmington Hills, lights a candle during the service.

Photo by Sean Work

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WEST BLOOMFIELD/FARMINGTON HILLS — The local Jewish community joined forces to mourn, encourage and strengthen one another after 11 people died in an Oct. 27 shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Tree of Life Congregation.

A lone gunman could face the death penalty if convicted of a hate crime.

At vigils and memorials, people stood together across metro Detroit.

People like Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld, CEO of the Farmington Hills-based Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus, who said in a statement that the HMC is deeply saddened.

“And troubled by the murders and violence that were committed at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh,” he said. “We mourn this loss of life, which occurred at a place of worship during a family celebration.”

Mayerfeld added that the “tragic anti-Semitic incident” showcases that there is “still much work to be done” in teaching the importance of tolerance and respect for people of all religions and cultures.

Mayerfeld said that the safety and security of the HMC’s visitors and staff are always a top priority.

“We will continue to maintain and monitor the security measures we have in place and thank our community relationships and law enforcement for their partnership in these efforts,” Mayerfeld said.

The West Bloomfield Police and Fire departments posted their condolences on Facebook Oct. 30.

“Our team members are committed to ensuring the safety of our faith-based communities here in West Bloomfield. We stand side-by-side with our community partners in denouncing bigotry and hate,” the post states.

Christopher Bremer, executive director of the Jewish Ensemble Theatre, said in an email to the JET community that JET stands in unity with people who condemn the violence at the Tree of Life Congregation.

“Condemnation of such an act should be silently self-evident; however, sometimes in order to stand, we must first speak,” he said, adding that JET stands for tolerance, diversity and inclusion of all people. “We are proud to be part of a community of artists and audiences who also believe that our differences are outweighed by our commonality and love.”

In a follow-up interview, Bremer said that JET will maintain a presence of security “at all times” when it is open for its next season, when it will move 4 miles away from its West Bloomfield location to Walled Lake.

“When we open in April, we will have guards there,” he said.

Temple Israel Rabbi Joshua L. Bennett emailed a letter about the tragedy.

“All of us at Temple continue to shed tears as we process this horrific moment for the Jewish community and our country,” Bennett said in the email. “We know you join us in praying for the well-being of the families and friends of those whose lives were impacted. Know that we are here for you should you need us as we move from grief and sorrow to hope and renewal.”

Bennett added that Temple Israel has worked with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and other synagogues to create a “roadmap of healing” for all.

A  teen vigil was held Oct. 29 at Temple Israel in response to the tragedy.

“We had about 700 people participate in the vigil; there were representatives from not only the Jewish community but the interfaith community as well, showing support and solidarity with us,” Bennett said.

Bennett said the program was led by Temple Israel teenagers and representatives of other youth programs throughout the city.

“It was (a) truly inspiring evening where the voices of the teenagers were heard — they shared a message of hope, of healing. A bit of desperation in their voices as they talked about the challenges they faced as young leaders.”

He added that attendees walked away with a sense of healing.

“They were urging us to take action and not allow this moment to stop us from our pursuit of justice and love,” he said.

Rabbi Michael Moskowitz, of Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield, planned to host a Shabbat of Solidarity Nov. 2, after press time, to stand in support of the victims in the Pittsburgh shooting.

Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron; Monsignor Robert McClory, the pastor of Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak; Imam Hassan Qazwini, of the Islamic Center of America; and Pastor Bruce Burwell, of Light of the World Christian Ministries, joined in the Shabbat of Solidarity, according to a press release.

Moskowitz said in a statement that an attack on any synagogue is an attack on all Jews and Judaism itself.

“We will not allow fear to lessen our resolve to celebrate our lives, and we therefore must stand together,” he said in the statement. “During our darkest moments, there are still rays of hope. Messages of support, sadness and anger from the Christians and Muslims who stand with us against hatred and bigotry, offering prayers and actions, let us know we are not alone.”

Carolyn Normandin, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Michigan — headquartered in West Bloomfield — said that ADL Michigan has noticed an “uptick” in anti-Semitism.

“In the last few years, we do report on anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred,” she said. “We know there is a surge of anti-Semitism in the (United States). Last year alone, (we) saw a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitism. We know that social media is helping to fuel the rhetoric.”

Normandin said that on Oct. 26, ADL Michigan released a report that far-right extremists have stepped up their presence online because they can reach a targeted audience and spread their message further.

“They’ve also done flyers … these are white supremacists that have posted flyers all over our community of southeast Michigan,” Normandin said. She said that ADL Michigan advocates education, proactivity, support for organizations like ADL Michigan and reporting incidents.

“We believe that incidents should be reported,” she said, adding that ADL Michigan tracks incidents. “(We were) established 105 years ago, and we’ve been tracking incidents for many, many years.”

Normandin encourages people to visit the ADL Michigan office, 6600 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield, to inform them of incidents by calling or dropping by.

“My phone rings a lot,” she said. People can fill out an incident report online and send the ADL photos or videos of people committing “nefarious” acts.

“When they do that, we can alert law enforcement; we can alert city and community leaders,” she said. “Speak up if you hear an anti-Semitic or racist remark.”

To contact an ADL regional office for information about local gatherings and vigils, visit www.adl.org.

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