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About 3,000 gather at Temple Emanuel to honor victims killed at Tree of Life Synagogue

DENVER — A diverse crowd of almost 3,000 peo­ple gath­ered at Tem­ple Emanuel Sun­day night to honor the 11 vic­tims killed in a mass shoot­ing at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue.

Rabbi Jay Strear, the pres­i­dent and CEO of Jew­ish Col­orado, said the act of ter­ror in Penn­syl­va­nia was designed to “make us stay in our homes,” and to be afraid to walk to syn­a­gogue on Sat­ur­day mornings.

Before the vigil began, Strear told Denver7 that the vio­lence was a state­ment of what one indi­vid­ual believes Amer­ica should be, but, specif­i­cally, is not.

Too many vig­ils
Strear intro­duced Scott Levin, the exec­u­tive direc­tor Anti-Defamation League Moun­tain States.

“I’ve been to too many vig­ils,” Levin said.

He said he has attended them as an ally for the LGBTQ com­mu­nity, immi­grants, refugees, women and the teenagers who were shot in Park­land, Florida.

“I didn’t think that I’d have to ask the com­mu­nity to come to Den­ver to stand with my com­mu­nity — the Jew­ish com­mu­nity” he said.

Kristall­nacht anniver­sary
Levin noted a his­toric par­al­lel between what is hap­pen­ing now, with the rise of anti-semitism, and what hap­pened just prior to WWII.

“In less than two weeks, we’re com­ing up on the 80th anniver­sary of Kristall­nacht,” he said. “The night Nazi thugs ran­sacked Jew­ish busi­nesses and beat up Jews.”

He said Kristall­nacht opened the flood­gates to the Holocaust.

“The defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of that ‘night of bro­ken glass was that neigh­bors didn’t stand up for them,” he said. “The clergy didn’t stand up for them. Law enforce­ment didn’t stand up for them and the gov­ern­ment didn’t stand up for the Jews.”

He said he was pleased with the dif­fer­ence he saw at Tem­ple Emanuel Sun­day night.

“I am so pleased to be here,” he said. “As I look out on my neigh­bors, on clergy, on police offi­cers and on the gov­ern­ment to be here to say, ‘This will not stand.’”

That state­ment drew a thun­der­ous round of applause.

Mayor, governor’s reac­tion
Den­ver Mayor Michael Han­cock attended the vigil Sun­day evening.

“We can­not let this attack on a con­gre­ga­tion in Pitts­burgh be just another his­toric tragedy,” he said.

He added that the response must be a demand for tol­er­ance, com­pas­sion, equity and accountability.

Col­orado Gov. John Hick­en­looper said anti­semitism and other forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion debase our cul­ture and degrade our values.

“We are a nation built on free­doms and our most sacred free­dom is the free­dom of wor­ship,” he said. “It’s come to the point where that which is val­ued the most is most at risk.”

‘Dis­ease is killing us’
Rev. Amanda Hen­der­son of the Inter­faith Alliance of Col­orado said we are see­ing hatred arise and that dis­ease is killing us.

Over the past few days, she said she’s been asked sev­eral times over how to change this ongo­ing pat­tern of hate.

Before she could reply, the audi­ence did, say­ing in uni­son, “Vote!”

“We must sup­port lead­ers who inspire us and unite us, not tear us apart,” she said.

“No Amer­i­can wakes up on Sun­day, goes to their place of wor­ship and expects to be shot and killed,” said Dil­preet Jammu of Col­orado Sikhs.

He said he first spoke those words in August of 2012, when a white suprema­cist ter­ror­ist walked into a Sikh gur­d­wara (tem­ple) in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin and killed six mem­bers of the Sikh community.

Jammu said he couldn’t imag­ine back then that he’d soon be hear­ing about shoot­ings at a church in Charleston, South Car­olina and then a syn­a­gogue in Pittsburgh.

Hearts bro­ken
“Our hearts are filled and are bro­ken at the same time,” said Qusair Mohamedb­haiv of the Col­orado Mus­lim Society.

He said the Anti-Defamation League was present when mem­bers of a mosque were killed.

He quoted a let­ter signed by 21 Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tions that rep­re­sent 75,000 Mus­lims in Colorado.

“Mis­guided peo­ple will always seek ways to destroy the fab­ric of peace, tol­er­ance and respect that brings a great coun­try together,” he said. “We stand in sol­i­dar­ity with Jew­ish neigh­bors, friends and other vul­ner­a­ble communities.”

Mohamedb­hai said the Jew­ish com­mu­nity is being tar­geted, in part, because it has helped Mus­lim refugees come to the U.S.

“We honor your sac­ri­fice,” he said. “We thank you for your friend­ship and stand with you.”

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