PROVIDENCE – Elmgrove Avenue outside the Dwares Jewish Community Center Monday night was packed with more than 1,000 people looking for solace in community. The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island sponsored the early evening vigil honoring the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
As the sun set, leaders from all faiths in Rhode Island as well as members of the local political delegation stood on the stairs outside of the JCC and spoke about ending hate and standing together as a community to combat its ugly outreach.
Rabbi Sarah Mack, president of the Rhode Island Board of Rabbis, gave an impassioned speech about combating the rise of hate. “Look around,” she told the crowd. “This is how we combat hate.”
Mufti Ikram, imam for Masjid al-Islam in North Smithfield, said he spoke for Muslims everywhere. “We will stand by you in good times and in bad,” he told the Jewish community.
Rev. Donnie Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches explained that pastoral care is the clergy’s responsibility. She said she never dreamed that she’d be giving speeches like this so often. But then the speech took a turn toward a plea for gun control.
Anderson was interrupted by Rhode Island Attorney General candidate Alan Gordon from the Compassion Party who heckled Anderson. “Is this a political rally,” Gordon shouted. “I’m a Jew and I object to the politicization of my time of mourning.” The crowd heckled right back and Gordon departed.
Other faith leaders spoke in support of the Jewish community and Rabbi Raphie Schochet chanted psalms.
Eleven candles were kindled in memory of the victims.
The crowd began to disperse to the music of “If Not Now.”
Several organizations had informational tables set up inside the JCC building. Those included Dorcas International, Anti-Defamation League, RI Coalition Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action and the Refugee Dream Center.
FRAN OSTENDORF is the editor of The Jewish Voice.