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Boulder, Denver synagogues hold emotional vigils for Pittsburgh shooting victims

A man armed with an assault rif­fle and sev­eral hand­guns walked into the Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue in a Jew­ish neigh­bor­hood in Pitts­burgh, killing 11 and wound­ing six Sat­ur­day morn­ing. The sus­pect report­edly shouted anti-Semitic com­ments as he gunned down worshipers.

Sunday’s Boul­der vigil was streamed live on Har Hashem’s Face­book page.

Con­gre­ga­tion Har HaShem Rabbi Fred Greene esti­mated that close to 700 peo­ple attended, with sev­eral hun­dred stand­ing. Atten­dees included Boul­der Mayor Pro Tem Aaron Brock­ett, leg­is­la­tors and lead­ers from other faiths.

“Our togeth­er­ness is our strength,” Brock­ett said.

Greene urged atten­dees to finan­cially sup­port insti­tu­tions, to vote and to “go out and meet some­body new and tell each other our stories.”

“It’s time to show up on one another’s lives,” he said.

Hadi Abdul­matin, with the Islamic Cen­ter of Boul­der, talked about the com­mon theme across faith tra­di­tions that both human life and places of wor­ship are scared.

“We mourn with the Jew­ish com­mu­nity all across this nation and all across this world,” he said.

Nevei Kodesh Rabbi Sarah Bracha Ger­shuny first asked clergy mem­bers to stand, then peo­ple from other faiths and finally every­one in the synagogue.

“Take a moment here to feel your feet on the floor, and you feel this mass of peo­ple to the left of you, to the right of you, behind you, around you, to feel this web of con­nec­tion, to feel this web of sol­i­dar­ity, to feel this faith, this hope for a bet­ter future that brings us together,” she said.

She said she’s heard grief, pain, “the sad­ness that comes with the sense of the inevitable” and “a sense of dis­quiet about what is next” from her con­gre­ga­tion. She also received enthu­si­as­tic applause when call­ing for gun control.

“Yes, we need to stand with the Jew­ish com­mu­nity,” she said. “Yes, we need to stand with all com­mu­ni­ties, all com­mu­ni­ties that are the vic­tims of violence.”

Polit­i­cal, civic and faith lead­ers also led an emo­tional vigil on Sun­day evening at Denver’s Tem­ple Emanuel.

About 3,000 peo­ple attended the Den­ver vigil, said Scott Levin, regional direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League. Many had to sit on the ground or stand in over­flow rooms.

The Den­ver vigil was led by Rabbi Joseph R. Black and sev­eral inter­faith lead­ers and included speeches from Mayor Michael Han­cock, Gov. John Hick­en­looper, the police chiefs of Aurora and Den­ver, and orga­niz­ers from Jew­ish advo­cacy groups.

“This is not OK,” Hick­en­looper said from the podium in ref­er­ence to the Pitts­burgh shooting.

Echo­ing a mes­sage of unity, the gov­er­nor added an allu­sion to the need for gun control.

“We must cre­ate the rules and reg­u­la­tions to safe­guard our com­mu­nity,” Hick­en­looper said.

Speak­ers from the Mus­lim, Sikh, Chris­t­ian and Jew­ish faiths evoked the mem­o­ries of other mass shoot­ings that have taken place in houses of worship.

“We must firmly stop white supremacy,” Col­orado Mus­lim Soci­ety gen­eral coun­sel Qusair Mohamedb­hai said.

The loud­est applause was reserved for con­dem­na­tion of “polit­i­cal lead­ers” who sow division.

“I know as an elected offi­cial, what I say mat­ters,” Han­cock said. “I would rather pro­mote a civic soci­ety than tear peo­ple apart.”

The crowd responded with a stand­ing ova­tion to his words and other calls for civil­ity from polit­i­cal leaders.

Adding to Hancock’s mes­sage, Inter­faith Alliance exec­u­tive direc­tor Rev. Amanda Hen­der­son said “vis­ceral divi­sion” has been prop­a­gated by lead­ers. The crowd responded with chants of “Vote, Vote, Vote.”

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