Washington’s community leaders gathered to pay respect for Poway’s victims

“We know something’s going to happen,” he continued. “This isn’t the end, and so we need to be on top of it as a community."

April 30, 2019 22:10
2 minute read.
Vigil in Washington DC after California synagogue shooting

Vigil in Washington DC after California synagogue shooting. (photo credit: OMRI NAHMIAS)

WASHINGTON – Some 200 people gathered on Monday evening outside the Chabad building in the nation’s capital to pay their respect to the victims of the Poway shooting.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington and other community leaders joined together and pledged to fight antisemitism.

Gil Preuss, CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, told the audience that “as a Jewish community and as a country, we need to recognize that the peace and calm that we existed [in] for a long time is not there right now. We need to have better security; we need to be aware that there are people out there seeking to harm others in violent ways and we can’t be naive and pretend that it won’t happen again.

“We know something’s going to happen,” he continued. “This isn’t the end, and so we need to be on top of it as a community. We need to make sure, and we do everything possible to prevent it, to stop it. And that is our responsibility.”

Preuss added that everyone should be dedicated to fighting racism and antisemitism, regardless of its source. “We have to make sure that our battle against those forces goes beyond any political alignments,” he said. “We can’t just fight it when it’s on the other side; we have to fight it, and even more so when the people saying it are aligned with us politically. Because if we’re only fighting it when it’s someone who disagrees with them politically, then we’re not fighting racism, then we’re not fighting antisemitism or fighting a political battle.”

Mayor Bowser said that: “While we gather in sadness this evening, we also gather with a great sense of defiance. We pray certainly for the family of Laurie Kay. We pray for the health of the worshipers recovering and we pray for the Jewish community. We also pray for our beloved United States of America. This senseless attack at a Chabad synagogue was cowardly. It was directed at Jews. It destroys the religious fabric that holds many communities together. We pray tonight for an end to these acts of hate in our nation.”

Rabbi Shemtov told The Jerusalem Post that he is encouraged to see so many people showing up to the ceremony. “There were hundreds of people from all sectors of the Jewish community, which was encouraging,” he said. “There were also people here who are not part of the Jewish community, but I believe that they felt what we felt, which is that you must answer, these types of heinous crimes, not just with sorrow and sadness, but with light and strength and resilience. And that is the inspiration that I got out of this. Seeing so many people come together. There were too many people rush to hold it inside, so we held it outside.”

Speaking about the security procedures following the attack, Shemtov said: “Unfortunately, we already have armed protection in our synagogue. We’re going to review our security procedures, but there’s no way where we’re going to diminish, if anything, we will enhance and build and broaden our impact, our presence, and our community’s involvement.”

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