People from all over came to share their sorrow and hear from their leaders.
BY FREDA MIKLIN
A hastily organized community solidarity vigil to honor the memory of the 11 innocents slaughtered as they prayed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday morning drew 1,000 people to Temple Emanuel in Denver Sunday evening. People of all ages and faiths filled every inch of the sanctuary in which one could sit or stand. Political and religious leaders from different parties and virtually every religion stood, sang and prayed together to uplift a stunned and bereaved community.
The program opened with the singing of a Hebrew prayer beseeching G-d to bring peace to all the world. Scott Levin, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), reminded the crowd that the ADL stands for all who are victimized because of who they are, whether immigrants, refugees, or high school students in Parkland, Florida. He asked the question on many people’s minds about whether anti-Semitism is still present in our society. He said that ADL tracks incidents of anti-Semitism and they have grown steadily in the Mountain States region from 18 in 2015 to 45 in 2016, 57 in 2017, and 50 so far this year. When he said, “This will not stand,” the entire audience rose and applauded. They stood up again when he asked everyone in law enforcement who was present to stand and be acknowledged.
Gov. John Hickenlooper shares thoughts and prayers on the tragedy.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock encouraged the crowd, “Do not become numb. Do not become apathetic to hatred and violence.” Gov. John Hickenlooper took a similar tone, reminding people several times, “This is not OK.” The police chiefs of Denver and Aurora came up to the podium together to remind citizens that they and their departments remain ever-vigilant. Aurora Chief Nicholas Metz said, “I spoke to the Pittsburgh police chief today and he said that his officers are all right. He said that they knew when they went into that synagogue Saturday morning that they might not ever come out.” Metz continued, “Terrorism is not just about violence. The shooter wanted to create divisiveness and fear in our community. We will not let him succeed. We will not let that happen in our backyard.”
Rev. Amanda Henderson, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, which counts as members 64 churches and temples in metro Denver, said, “To my Jewish family, I am with you. The Christian community is with you.” She got the most raucous applause of the evening when she talked about the man in Florida who sent 14 letter-bombs to current and former government officials, including two ex-presidents, along with a major news organization. She described him as, “The bomber who latched onto vitriol and division that has been propagated by our leaders.” She continued, “Anti-Semitism has gotten worse. What are we supposed to do about this?” As audience members spontaneously began shouting out the word, “Vote!”, she concluded, “We need leaders who draw us together, not tear us apart.” The message was clear.
Rounding out the speakers were Dilpreet Jammu, representing the Sikh community, and Qusair Mohamedbhai of the Colorado Muslim Society, who offered a statement from 22 organizations representing 75,000 Muslims in Colorado. He said, “Colorado Muslims stand in solidarity with our Jewish friends and neighbors.”
Elected officials quietly sitting in the audience to show their support for the community included U.S. Senator Michael Bennett, U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman and Diana DeGette, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, 18th Judicial District Attorney and Colorado AG candidate George Brauchler, and candidate for the U.S. House Jason Crow.
U.S Rep. Mike Coffman and Colorado AG Cynthia Coffman were both there to let the community know they had their support.
In a show of unity, George Brauchler, candidate for Colorado AG, and U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette stood together as community leaders in a time of tragedy.
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