‘We are children of the same God’: St. Louis residents of all faiths gather for Jewish Sabbath
Jewish congregations in St. Louis came together this weekend for the first Sabbath since a gunman killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Some congregations, including Temple Israel in Creve Coeur, invited residents from all faiths to join them for the Jewish Sabbath, known as Shabbat. Interfaith services were also held in cities across the country as part of a social-media campaign to send a message that “love triumphs over hate.”
Rabbi Amy Feder of Temple Israel said the Jewish community is “incredibly resilient,” but support from people of other faiths has helped them stay strong in the face of brutal anti-Semitic acts.
“It feels wonderful to know that people who aren’t necessarily part of our congregation or part of our Jewish community want to show their solidarity and support,” Feder said.
Erin Brennan lives in south St. Louis and is a lay minister in the Catholic church. She brought her young daughter to Shabbat services at Temple Israel for the first time on Friday evening.
“We are children of the same God, we are neighbors and friends and family,” Brennan said. “Offering prayers together shows that we’re committed to one another.”
Clergy members from the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities spoke at Friday night’s interfaith service at Temple Israel.
The Rev. John Hampton Jr. referred to the Tree of Life shooting as “the kind of hate and violence that doesn’t belong anywhere but in a history book.”
“Sometimes there are no words to say, but saying nothing is still not an option,” said Hampton, a pastor at the United Methodist Church of St. Clair.
Ghazala Hayat of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis urged the congregation not to lose hope.
“The Muslims of this community stand with you,” Hayat said. “We will hold your hand and fight bigotry and anti-Semitism.”
Armed police officers were stationed at the outer doors of Temple Israel during Friday’s interfaith Shabbat, as they are during every service.
Other Jewish synagogues in the St. Louis region have implemented a range of security measures over the past several years to ensure the safety of their congregants.
Jim Bennett, senior rabbi at Congregation Shaare Emeth in Creve Coeur, said they are “constantly revising and revisiting their security plans” but did not share specific details.
Despite the need for increased security, Bennett and other Jewish leaders have struck a defiant tone.
“We refuse to live with a bunker mentality,” Bennett said. “We want to move forward together, with our friends and neighbors, and build a community that is more just and more compassionate.”
Rabbi Moshe Shulman of Young Israel, an orthodox congregation in University City, agreed.
“The bigots and the hate mongers don’t win,” Shulman said. “Because we as a community won’t let them.”
Follow Shahla on Twitter: @shahlafarzan