For Marc B. Terrill, president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the massacre of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 was deeply personal.
Speaking to approximately 200 Jewish communal leaders, elected officials and clergy at a private interfaith oneg Shabbat program in the Park Heights Jewish Community Center’s Strauss Auditorium on Nov. 2, Terrill said he, his wife, Diana, and their three children had recently returned from Pittsburgh, where they attended the funerals of Diana Terrill’s cousins, Cecil and David Rosenthal, two victims of the shooting.
Presented by The Associated and the Baltimore Jewish Council, the “Stronger Than Hate: Baltimore Stands with Pittsburgh” oneg Shabbat included remarks by Gov. Larry Hogan, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and Baltimore County Executive Donald I. Mohler III.
Also in attendance were Rabbi Steven Schwartz of Beth El Congregation, Bishop Mark Brennen of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton of the Episcopal Archdiocese of Maryland, and Bishop Dwayne Debnam of Morning Star Baptist Church.
The event kicked off a weekend of “Solidarity Shabbat” services in synagogues across Baltimore and the United States.
Following opening remarks, Terrill invited his wife up on stage where they lit two of the 11 candles set up in honor of the people who died at the synagogue. Then, he introduced Rabbi Moshe Hauer of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Synagogue.
“We are known as the wandering Jews,” Rabbi Hauer said. “We’ve been around a long time, but we haven’t been able to stay anywhere a long time. We come, we establish ourselves and then we have to go.” Rabbi Hauer said anti-Semitic incidents such as the one in Pittsburgh create great anxiety for American Jews, since they make them feel their place in the U.S. may be threatened.
“So your presence means the world to us,” he said to the interfaith guests.
Speaking on behalf of “all the people of Maryland,” Hogan offered his deepest sympathies and sent prayers for the victims, their loved ones and the first responders who came to the scene of the shootings.
Hogan quoted the late Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Prize speech: “Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” Last week, said Hogan, “Pittsburgh became the center of the universe.”
He insisted that no amount of hate could divide Americans. “In the battle between good and evil, there can only be one side to stand on,” the governor said. “The good within us will always triumph.”
Said Bishop Brennen: “We condemn unequivocally, this and all other forms of anti-Semitism.” He suggested that the increase in hate and violence against “certain groups” was directly related to the decrease in religious affiliation.
Cardin expressed “outrage and sorrow” about the attacks at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
“Pittsburgh was an attack on all of us,” he said. Cardin also expressed gratitude for the support of the interfaith community.
“A house of prayer, a sanctuary, was invaded and 11 were murdered because they were Jewish, recalling the darkest moments in the history of mankind,” he said. “This attack underscores that words have consequences. Public discourse that wrongly stokes fear is not policy debate. It is hate-mongering, pure and simple. It must be condemned by our leaders, regardless of whether the target is the African American community, the Muslim community or the LGBT community. … Our leaders must lead, speak out and leave no room for hate.”
Rev. Sutton said he wanted the Jewish community to know it is not alone. He recited “First They Came,” a well-known poem by German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller written after the Holocaust about the need to stand up for persecuted peoples.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”