Share the Support and Love Muslims Embraced Us Jews When We Were Slain - Now We Must Reach out to Them

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), March 18, 2019 | Go to article overview

Share the Support and Love Muslims Embraced Us Jews When We Were Slain - Now We Must Reach out to Them


When I saw the news from New Zealand on Friday, the cracks in my heart widened. Another act of terrorism. Another act of hate. I know something of what the Christchurch community is going through because less than five months ago, my community went through something similar. On Oct. 27, a terrorist murdered 11 members of my synagogue in Pittsburgh.

On Friday, within hours of waking up, the staff at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh convened. Congregants began calling and emailing each other. We needed to organize. We needed to do something, and not merely to help people in New Zealand, but to counter Islamophobia at home. Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers shared this plea in an email to the congregation, "I ask you .?.?. to reach out not only to the injured communities, but to your Islamic neighbors as well."

From our own experience, we know that the hours and days that follow will bring intense bewilderment and grief. Yet, after our shooting, there was something that gave us strength. In that time of pain and fear, another story emerged, one of hope and love.

On Oct. 28, I attended a hastily organized memorial service at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh. Dignitaries and politicians filled the front rows. We listened to the speeches, with their impassioned messages of support. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spoke, as did various clergy, representative of many different faiths. At one point, the clergy leaders - Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Presbyterian, Hindu - crowded on the stage together. It was a powerful sight of unity.

One speech stood out for me more than all the others. Wasiullah Mohamed, the executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, took the stage. He announced that the center had begun raising money to pay for funeral expenses for the victims. He had already raised thousands, and in the coming weeks, the number would skyrocket to hundreds of thousands. Mohamed also made a vow: He pledged that the Pittsburgh Muslim community would stand with the Pittsburgh Jewish community. He and members of his community offered to personally stand guard at the doors of local synagogues, if necessary, to allow Jews safe passage to our places of worship and to accompany us if we felt unsafe running our daily errands.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of these words. Muslims offering to protect Jews? To me, there could be no greater olive branch, no more profound promise of peace.

Six days later, on a Friday evening, the Tree of Life congregation gathered privately in a small chapel at Rodef Shalom, a nearby synagogue, for the first service of Shabbat. As I waited for the service to begin, people I didn't know filed in. …

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