Greensboro Jewish community calls for unity after Pittsburgh shooting

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Jewish community in the Triad is trying to move forward after a mass shooting on their day of prayer. Many people found out about the shooting while they sat in Saturday morning prayer themselves. So many prayed for peace, while learning about violence and hatred.

On the holiest day of the week in Judaism, people gather in prayer. This Saturday morning, the Beth David Synagogue in Greensboro had a visitor, a member of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“In the early part of the service, he started receiving text after text after text, asking after his well being. He’s a regular attendee in the morning, and he could have easily been there if he hadn’t have been here,” Rabbi Joshua Ben-Gideon with Beth David Synagogue said.

That visitor broke the news to the rabbi in the middle of the services, that more than 400 miles away, eleven people were gunned down, as they gathered to pray, in an act of anti-Semitism.

“We sang a song of peace. And it was very difficult, people were crying. Because we were trying to balance the experience of hearing this news with a song that they are comfortable with and it’s supposed to be uplifting,” the rabbi said.

Marilyn Forman Chandler, the executive director for the Greensboro Jewish Federation was also in services when she learned what happened.

“It’s just so sad that someone could feel so unsafe and so violated in a moment when they are praying to God,” she said.

It's an act that rattled congregations here, but Rabbi Ben-Gideon says one of the oldest Jewish teachings is not to let hatred win.

“It teaches us that when the Jewish community is threatened, we shouldn’t make any changes. It goes as far as to say, to make a really strong point, don’t even change the way you tie your shoes. We shouldn’t react out of fear. We shouldn’t let it change anything about what we do,” he said.

That doesn't mean the synagogues and schools across the Triad aren't taking more steps to make sure everyone is safe.

“I can tell you that we already have security measures in our temples and in our schools. But we do have to redouble our efforts and our intentionality to make sure our children and congregations feel safe,” Forman Chandler said.

Greensboro Police say they are going to be more visible outside of places of worship. Rabbi Ben-Gideon said offices stopped by services over the weekend as well.

“We should work together to heal these wounds, and work together as one community to do what we can to prevent them from happening again,"

Working together to prevent this here, or anywhere.

Monday night, the Beth David Synagogue is going to hold a service to mourn and to bring the community together. Rabbi Ben-Gideon is also asking people to donate to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, because that was one of the things the accused shooter was targeting in social media posts.

On Tuesday, there's going to be an event at Temple Emanuel to promote unity and rally against anti-Semitism.