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‘We are better than that’: Sabbath service held in memory of lives lost in synagogue massacre

Less than a week after 11 people were killed at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, the Joliet Jewish Congregation opened its doors during its first Sabbath service following the attack, inviting local clergy and the public for prayer, meditation and solidarity.

The program was held Friday in support of the #ShowUpForShabbat initiative, a nationwide gathering launched by the American Jewish Committee.

“This has been a difficult time for Jews in the United States and I would argue in and around the world,” Rubovits told the crowd.

A gunman opened fire in the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburg Oct. 27, killing 11 Jews.

While the names of those slain in the massacre were read aloud during the service, the crowd looked on as candles were lit in their memory.

Rubovits said he can’t get the picture out of his mind of the families, survivors and those murdered in the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue.

“We mourn the senseless deaths in Pittsburg last Sabbath,” he said.

Rubovits questioned what was to be gained by attacking the Tree of Life Congregation.

“The senseless slaughter of 11 innocent synagogue worshippers accomplished nothing,” he said.

Joliet resident Tom Schmitt dropped in for the service after seeing it promoted on Facebook.

Schmitt said recent events are “scary if you know the history of Germany and how Adolf Hitler came to power.”

Schmitt also drew parallels between the head of the Nazi regime and President Donald Trump.

“I’m not a political or religious activist, but I think it’s bad,” he said. “We have people stoking the fire, and people are right there with him shoveling coal.”

Rubovitz acknowledged that Jews have long lived in fear of anti-Semitism and said they will not allow hatred to win.

“We will not allow those who espouse hatred to take control of our lives,” Rubovits said.

“We are better than that,” he said. “We can do better.”

Plainfield resident Warren Thom said he felt compelled to take part in the service.

“We just wanted to show our support for the Jewish community,” Warren said. “We all suffer with them.”

Warren’s wife, Susan Thom, said the service was appropriate considering recent events.

Attending Sabbath was a first for the Thoms.

“It was new to me,” Susan said.

Warren said he is glad he and his wife dropped in for the service. He called it “a chance to show respect.”

Rubovits referenced a quote by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “An attack against one is an attack against all.”

He also urged people not to condone expressions of hate.

In closing the Sabbath service, Rubovits wanted one point to be made clear to everyone.

“Just know that the God to who Jews are praying is the same God that is found in Christianity and Islam,” Rubovits said.

“The languages may be different, the processes may vary from synagogue to church to mosque,” Rubovits said. “The overall aspect of our prayer is respect for one another while living under the overarching canopy of God.”

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