Condolences and prayers aimed at countering the violence of a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh Saturday are flooding social media, with services and vigils planned in both Bangor and Portland.
Robert Gregory Bowers, who had expressed hatred of Jewish people, killed eight men and three women inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday during worship services before a tactical police team tracked him down and took him into custody, according to the Associated Press. Another six people were injured.
Congregation Beth Abraham, an Orthodox synagogue in Bangor, said in a Facebook post that it will hold a special prayer service 6:30-7 p.m. Sunday at 145 York St. in memory of the victims and those who were injured.
Congregation Beth El, a Reform synagogue, and Congregation Beth Israel, a Conservative synagogue, both in Bangor, plan to hold a joint gathering that is open to the community at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Beth El at 183 French St. The event will include a Jewish service. Other religious leaders reportedly may be invited to the service.
The Jewish Community Alliance in Portland, also on Facebook, said it is planning a community vigil for peace, hope and memory at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at its headquarters at 1342 Congress St. in Portland.
The Maine Jewish Museum will hold a panel discussion today at 4 p.m. at 267 Congress St. in Portland in collaboration with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. The discussion, focused on perspectives on immigration, will include Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, director of Interfaith Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the ADL’s Northeast Area Civil Rights Counsel Amy Feinman; Portland City Councilman Pious Ali; and Damascus Rugaba, an immigrant from Rwanda and co-founder of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center.
In a statement, the museum said, “While we mourn the loss of life in Pittsburgh, it is important that we not let events such as this change our daily activities any more than is necessary … Perhaps we can begin to change the world in a small but meaningful way by shining the light of knowledge on the subject of immigration.”
Portland police will be present at the event to provide security.
The ADL’s CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement Saturday that “this violent attack — the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the United States since 2014 — occurs at a time when ADL has reported a historic increase in both anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic online harassment. As we mourn those lost and search for answers, ADL will remain steadfast in its mission to fight anti-Semitism wherever and whenever it may occur.”
Congregation Beth Abraham’s post said that an attack on one Jewish community is an attack on all of us.
“We are devastated by the horrific and senseless murder of our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh,” the synagogue said in its Facebook post. “While as a community we must take steps to enhance our security measures and overall vigilance, we must also take practical personal steps too. We must unify against hate by resolving to show more kindness, tolerance and love, all while always remaining proud and upstanding Jews who stand for all that is good and moral in our world.”
The Jewish Community of Southern Maine said it has been devastated to learn of yesterday’s violence in Pittsburgh.
“Our thoughts are with those who lost loved ones and friends,” the alliance wrote in a Facebook post. “As we mourn, we remember and draw upon the strength of the Jewish people, and of our tradition, which calls on each of us to work in the service of love and repair in a world that is riven by tragedy and harm.”
To respect the victims of the shooting, Gov. Paul LePage has directed that the U.S. and Maine flags be flown at half staff immediately until sunset on Wednesday.
“Ann and I send our condolences to the families of the Tree of Life congregation,” the governor said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, which occurred in a place of worship during a ceremony to celebrate a new life. We pray for the victims and their families.”
President Donald Trump issued a proclamation Saturday night directing flags to half-staff.
Portland Police said on Twitter that they will be giving special attention to places of worship Sunday due to the tragic events that occurred Saturday. Bangor Police also stepped up their presence at religious organizations.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Jewish community and anyone affected. Be assured that your right to worship in peace is important to us here in Portland,” the Portland Police Twitter post said.
Catholic Bishop Robert P. Deeley, of the Diocese of Portland, in a Facebook post wrote, “This tragedy is senseless, and the loss of life is shocking … An attack against one faith is an attack against all who value religious freedom.”
The Maine Council of Churches in a statement condemned the shooting as an “anti-Semitic act of hatred and lethal violence.” The group said it extends our prayers, sympathy, support and solidarity the synagogue in Pittsburgh and to “our Jewish siblings here in Maine.”
The Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine post also said that Saturday’s crimes, committed during a holy day in a sacred place, “remind us of the virulence of antisemitism. We appreciate the messages we have received from organizations and groups in Maine affirming their commitment to supporting the Jewish community.”
It said that in the days and weeks to come, the alliance welcomes all community, Jewish and non-Jewish, to join in solidarity to fight against antisemitism and all forms of bias, discrimination and hate.
“While it is not enough, Jews turn to prayer not simply to hope for change or healing but to create the space in each of us to make change happen,” Congregation Beth El in Bangor wrote on its Facebook page.
“For now, hold your loved ones and friends close, and let us turn to our deepest calling to be B’tzelem Elohim/in the image of the Divine. That is to be the hands, heart, and actions in this country and in our world that work to end this kind of hatred and violence,” it said.
The notice also invited people to reach out to the synagogue if they want to talk, especially to Rabbi Darah Lerner.
“Know that the board of Beth El reviews the safety and security of our synagogue regularly,” it said.
Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor thanked the Bangor Police Department for its presence on Saturday.
“Our hearts are heavier than words can bear. May prayers and love bring comfort to those whose lives have been cruelly torn asunder,” its Facebook post said. “We will continue our holy work to assure the dignity and safety of all who dwell in the land. We will continue to silence hatred with acts of love … We will cry tonight and tomorrow, but we will go forward.”
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.