New Yorkers across the city held impromptu vigils on Saturday night to honor the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Bundled up against the cold and drizzling rain, hundreds of attendees in Union Square sang Jewish songs and said Kaddish, a Hebrew prayer commonly recited following the death of a loved one.
Led by local rabbis, attendees also participated in the Havdalah ceremony, lighting braided candles and reciting additional prayers to commemorate the end of the Sabbath.
On Saturday morning, during the naming ceremony at the Tree of Life congregation, a shooter started firing upon people—while allegedly yelling "All Jews must die!"—killing 11 and wounding six. Pittsburgh public safety director Wendell Hissrich said, "It's a very horrific crime scene. It's one of the worst that I've seen, and I've been on some plane crashes. It's very bad."
The gunman, Robert Bowers, 46, eventually surrendered after being wounded during a standoff. He has "posted virulent anti-Semitic messages on social media filled with slurs and conspiracy theories." The FBI found an assault rifle and three handguns.
The Anti-Defamation League said the shooting "is ikely the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in US history."
If this Gab post is indeed from the alleged #PittsburghSynagogue shooter Robert Bowers, it suggests he is not merely an anti-Semite, but a dedicated white supremacist as well. #Pittsburgh #SynagogueShooting pic.twitter.com/KPwuXrqEKE
— ADL (@ADL_National) October 27, 2018
The Department of Justice charged Bowers with 29 federal counts: 11 counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death; 11 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence; four counts of obstruction of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer; and three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
The NYPD is deploying officers from the Critical Response Command and Strategic Response Group to houses of worship, "out of an abundance of caution," according to Chief of the Department Terrence Monahan. He stressed there was no immediate threat to New Yorkers.
We’re New Yorkers - we’re always on, and we NEVER live in fear. Your highly skilled officers are out there all day, every day, protecting this city so that you can go about your weekend. No matter your faith or religion, the NYPD has your back. pic.twitter.com/ntynoh7tMb
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) October 27, 2018
An attack on the Jewish community anywhere is an attack on the Jewish community here and we stand with them shoulder to shoulder. We will continue to have increased NYPD presence at synagogues and community organizations in the coming days.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) October 27, 2018
At a Brooklyn vigil, City Council Member Brad Lander said, "We will stand together, in the streets, and in the shuls, and at the polls. We will build a world from love."
Speakers from Union Square event organizer Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, IfNotNow, and other Jewish activist groups stressed the importance of solidarity while standing shoulder to shoulder with representatives from MPower Change and other Muslim organizations.
"Their loss is our loss," said Merill Zack, the director of community engagement at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, whose work with refugees was mentioned multiple times in social media postings made by Bowers. "They could have been any of us, and they are all of us."
Jews and our allies gathered tonight in New York’s Union Square to hold vigil for those killed in Pittsburgh today.
As we mourned, members of the Muslim of the community guarded us.
One Rabbi said “there is only one religion—and that is the human religion.”
— marisa kabas (@MarisaKabas) October 28, 2018
Sophie Ellman-Golan, a member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, situated the shooting in a larger pattern of racial and political violence, which last made headlines as recently as Friday when police arrested Cesar Sayoc in connection with this past week's attempted pipe bombings of prominent Democrats.
"These are not just acts of political violence," she said. "These are acts of violence stoked by a president who praises that violence."
"May the memories of every single person we lost this morning be a blessing," she continued, referencing a common Hebrew honorific for the dead. "Tonight, we will mourn them. And tomorrow, we will resist."
Reporting by Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky