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Chicago vigil over Pittsburgh synagogue shooting decries ‘darkness and hate’

Hundreds of people gather Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, at Federal Plaza for a vigil in memory of victims of a mass shooting Saturday in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue and other victims of gun violence. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times.

Tags tied to trees in Chicago’s federal plaza Sunday night sent messages of love and hope in the wake of violence and hate.

But one said simply, “Fight!”

This was the message at an interfaith vigil held in the Loop on a chilly October night to remember the eight men and three women killed Saturday inside Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Religious leaders from around Chicago gathered to insist that a sleeping giant had been roused — and that love will overcome.

“We are the people,” Gearah Goldstein said as she opened Sunday’s program. “As we stand here together, we must hold love and light in our hearts because those are the forces that will extinguish the darkness and hate that has been called up in our country and around the world.”

Video by Max Herman | Hundreds of people gather at Federal Plaza for a vigil in memory of the fallen members of the Tree of Life

Rabbi Shoshanah Conover of Temple Sholom reminded the crowd that “the beginning of this week will be punctuated by funerals for 11 innocent people.” The Rev. Marvin Hunter, of Grace Memorial Baptist Church, warned that the United States is “wrestling for its soul.” And the Rev. Michael Pfleger, of St. Sabina Church, said that, “when we stand up and when we unite together across all faith lines and race lines, when we do that, we will win.”

As the vigil came to an end, the crowd in the plaza embraced and sang, “We Shall Overcome.”

People light candles Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, before a vigil in Chicago’s Federal Plaza in memory of victims in the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh and other victims of violence. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times.
People light candles Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, before a vigil in Chicago’s Federal Plaza in memory of victims in the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh and other victims of violence. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times.

Earlier in the day, a woman walking by the Chicago Loop Synagogue said she had grown up in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where the gunman had opened fire Saturday. Lynn Abravanel said she has been to the synagogue. And she said she knows people who are now suffering there.

“It was a very diverse community,” Abravanel said. “Very accepting of all religions, of all races. And for something like this to happen in my hometown just saddens me greatly.”

Glen Brodowsky, a former University of Chicago student, was visiting Chicago from San Diego for the weekend and went to synagogue Friday evening. “How many mosques, synagogues, churches and schools and malls and movie theaters will we have to retrieve dead bodies from before we realize we that we have a real problem with violence?”

Brodowsky says what happened Saturday inside the Pittsburgh synagogue is “our worst nightmare.”

Martin Spitzer, who had traveled from his home in Hamburg, Germany to attend a conference, said he is shocked that this kind of violence still happens.

“As a German, I can say that it is really horrifying that something like this can happen today, keeping in mind the history,” Spitzer said, referring to oppression that Jewish people have endured, including the Holocaust.

Video by Rahul Parikh