They came by the busload, from various faiths, to form a “ring of peace” around a Toronto synagogue and show their support for the Jewish community, still hurting in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh tragedy.
More than 300 people, including Muslims and Christians, joined hands Saturday to surround Holy Blossom Temple, the former place of worship for one of the victims in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting that left 11 people dead in Pittsburgh last week. Joyce Fienberg, 75, “grew up at Holy Blossom Temple” and was married there, according to a Facebook post by Rabbi Yael Splansky.
“We realize that people from all the other synagogues are grieving, especially at this synagogue because the Holy Blossom Temple lost one of their own,” said Osman Khan, who led the Holy Blossom Temple demonstration. “It resonated that much more with them.”
Holy Blossom spokesperson Deanna Levy said the “ring of peace” was formed during Shabbat morning services and that prayers and speeches were also read.
“This was a moving act of human kindness from members of the Toronto community,” she said.
Similar gatherings, which were organized by numerous Muslim and interfaith groups, were held at seven synagogues across the Greater Toronto Area to show solidarity and generate discussion about hate crimes.
A gunman had entered the Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27 during a worship service and killed eight men and three women. Six people were also injured in the attack, including four police officers. Authorities say the suspect, 46-year-old Robert Gregory Bowers, told police “all these Jews need to die.”
“This hate is really scary,” said Fatima Sajan, a development officer at the National Council of Canadian Muslims and leader of a group of several dozen people who came out to show their support at Temple Har Zion in Thornhill. “It’s not OK to be killed in the first place, but then to have it happen in your sanctuary where you worship is not OK, no matter who you are.”
The idea came out of a meeting on Monday where members of the religious organizations expressed a desire to support the Jewish community in the same way they had supported Muslims after the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017.
“They came out and visited a few mosques and we were really touched by that,” Sajan said. “So we wanted to do the same and show our support.”
The groups are planning more demonstrations at different synagogues in the coming weeks.
At the Pittsburgh synagogue, about 100 people gathered for what was called a “healing service” on Saturday morning. Former Tree of Life rabbi Chuck Diamond led a 45-minute service, featuring prayers, songs and poetry.
With files from The Canadian Press
Stefanie Marotta is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @StefanieMarotta