November 18, 2019

L.A. Synagogues Mark Tree of Life Anniversary

A view outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Oct. 29, 2018, two days after the mass shooting inside. (Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Congregations across Los Angeles, including Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Shomrei Torah Synagogue and IKAR, marked the one-year anniversary of the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh by urging Jewish Angelenos to show up to synagogue for Shabbat.

Advocacy group American Jewish Committee, with nearly 30 synagogues in the Los Angeles area participating in solidarity, coordinated the Oct. 25 effort, dubbed #ShowUpForShabbat.

That night, L.A. native Joey Freeman, who currently works for Gov. Gavin Newsom as chief deputy legislative affairs secretary and is Newsom’s unofficial liaison to the Jewish community, spoke at Wilshire Boulevard Temple (WBT), where 11 candles were lit for the victims of the Pittsburgh attack. WBT billed the event as a service to “raise our collective voice of Jewish pride and our commitment to a nation free of anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate.”

“The Jewish community has never been one to cower in the face of hate. We come together as a people, and we open our tent to communities different from our own, and together, we rise above the hate,” Freeman said.

At IKAR, Associate Rabbi David Kasher delivered brief remarks highlighting the Oct. 27, 2018, shooting, which took the lives of 11 worshippers on that Saturday morning.

According to AJC, #ShowUpForShabbat was conceived as a weekend for gathering, remembering and taking action. Last year, the organization convened a similar effort immediately following the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue. It “quickly became the largest-ever expression of solidarity with the American Jewish community.” Hundreds of thousands of people from more than 80 countries and 50 states turned out at synagogues to stand with the Jews targeted in the attacks and stand against the hate that led to their deaths.

The “campaign inspired countless people of all faiths to fill synagogues across America and around the world in the wake of the horrific attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh,” according to the AJC website.

“Arm-in-arm, let’s stand for an America based on mutual respect and shared destiny,” David Harris, CEO of AJC, said in a statement in advance of the Shabbat weekend.

Additional L.A. synagogues that took part in the Oct. 25-26 solidarity Shabbat included B’nai David-Judea, Kehillat Israel, Leo Baeck Temple, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and Ohr HaTorah Synagogue. 

Elected officials, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz among them, turned to Twitter to show their support for the #ShowUpForShabbat campaign.

“One year ago today, eleven people were killed at the Tree of Life synagogue. They were observing Shabbat at a place that should have been a sanctuary,” Warren wrote. “We have to end gun violence — and we have to speak up against hate, bigotry and anti-Semitism.”

“As we remember the 11 victims of the Tree of Life shooting last year, I stand in solidarity with Pittsburgh’s Jewish community,” Wasserman Schultz said. “We must all fight for a world free of anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate.”

For those who did not attend synagogue, AJC asked them to sign a document on its website lending their names in support of the campaign. “By adding your name and information,” the AJC website said, “you are sending a clear message that when hate raises its ugly head anywhere in our country, we will rise to confront it with solidarity and determination.”