More than a thousand people attended a Milwaukee-area vigil Monday night to mourn the victims of the fatal shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue and to stand in solidarity with their families. The shooting left 11 people dead.
Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Glendale was packed with attendees from a variety of faith groups and elected officials, including Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore.
The vigil featured powerful speeches and prayers led by religious leaders. A prominent theme was unity, which was powerfully demonstrated by Rabbi Joel Alter.
“Let us take one another's hands in defiance and in confidence and in hope. Let us link and raise our arms in solidarity and resolve to win this battle,” he said.
Another emotional moment came when Episcopal Priest David Simmons from Waukesha addressed the audience, “I stand before you today as the vice chair of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.” He invited faith leaders from throughout the community to join him and they crowded the stage
“We are called to stand together as people of faith in the face of such horror. Stronger than death. Stronger than hate. Stronger than racism sexism or any of the other isms. Any! Any of the other isms we as humans use to oppress each other,” Simmons said.
The fatal shooting in Pittsburgh sent shock waves throughout the country, and the mood was somber as people gathered for the vigil.
Marcus Bandos, a retired recycling engineer, spoke about his reaction to the news that 11 people were killed Saturday at the Pittsburgh synagogue. “Regardless of political affiliation you have sick people across the board. It’s just hard to comprehend.”
But Bandos’ wife Melanie has a different opinion. She thinks the current political climate has a big impact and was a contributing factor in the shooting.
“I’m very vocal in my opinion and the political rhetoric and not being able to stand up to these bullies. That [President Trump’s] adding to it and he’s inciting this violence,” she says.
Yet she says events like the vigil give a glimmer of hope, “I think you have to try to head the words of the people who spoke tonight. Stand in unity. I don’t think we can ever lose sight of hope, but I think it is still going to take a lot to overcome this.”
Additional interfaith gatherings are being held this week in Racine and Kenosha, to mourn the synagogue shooting victims and to call for unity and hope.