Aspen crosses religious aisles to remember Pittsburgh

Volunteers were asked to come and read descriptions written by loved ones of the Pittsburgh shooting victims and light a candle for the 11 deceased. The Aspen Jewish congregation held a Standing with Pittsburgh service at Aspen Chapel on Friday evening.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Individuals and clergies of faiths across the board assembled Friday night at the Aspen Chapel in a somber show of solidarity to honor and remember the 11 Jews who were slain last weekend in Pittsburgh.

Put on by the Aspen Jewish Congregation, the service drew a crowd that filled the pews and spilled into the back hallway.

Names of the 11 victims — ranging in age from 54-year-old David Rosenthal to 97-year-old Rose Mallinger — were read aloud twice, the second time by individuals who shared details about the deceased’s lives before lighting candles in their honor.

“It’s been a difficult week, a difficult period of time in our country for all of us and in the past week in the Jewish community in particular,” said Rabbi Emily Segal of the AJC. “Many of us felt feelings of grief and fear and anxiety that we not have felt before this week or certainly for some time.”

The attack occurred Oct. 27 during a baby-naming ceremony at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Authorities said the alleged gunman acted alone; a grand jury indicted him last week on 44 criminal counts, all to which he pleaded not guilty.

The Anti-Defamation League has said the killings are believed to be the worst anti-Semitic attack ever on American soil.

“We come to repudiate the poisonous legacy of anti-Semitism and what has become more prevalent with each passing day,” said Julie Schlafer, president of the AJC’s board of directors. “As we continue to stand with the victims and mourn with the Pittsburgh community, we are comforted by the outpouring of support that has filled our congregation tonight.”

Schlafer’s mother, Henrietta Weisberg of Michigan and a survivor of the Holocaust, died April 12 at the age of 89.

“My grandparents … and many other family members were murdered for no other reason than being Jewish,” Schlafer said. “It is the worst kind of evil that stems from hatred, and it is a general apathy that allows this atrocity to happen.

“But whenever my mother would witness something Jewish, whether a person or at an event, she would say, ‘Hitler didn’t win.’ And she was right. Hate didn’t win in World War II, and it won’t win now. Love, respect and freedom; that’s what wins. We will recover from last week’s tragedy because we know that hate will not defeat love.”

Last week, Atlantic magazine reported on FBI statistics showing anti-Semitism crimes against Jews accounted for more than half of the anti-religious hate crimes committed in 2016.

It is premature, however, to align the Pittsburgh tragedy with the current political climate, Rabbi Mendel Mintz of the Chabad Jewish Community Center said in an interview last week.

“I don’t see any reason to relate it to politics,” he said. “I think there may be a time and place to do that. But for now, bury the dead and let people remember them before we’re so quick to lay blame.”

A law-enforcement guard attended Friday’s service as a precautionary measure, and Aspen police also are checking in with other local houses of worship to make sure they have effective safety protocols in place.

Aspen’s mayor said the city welcomes people of all faiths and ethnicities.

“Aspen will remain a place where each person can share a sense of belonging and a feeling of acceptance, where your cultural identity is seen as an asset,” Steve Skadron, who is Jewish, told the gathering.

Skadron also called on people to vote by Tuesday, Election Day.

“I want to remind all of you to vote if you haven’t,” he said, “because that’s exactly the sort of local activity through which we mold the culture of our nation and of Aspen.”


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