Town leaders called for compassion and civility Monday, Oct. 29, during an interfaith vigil to remember those killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue over the weekend.
First Selectman Rudy Marconi urged residents gathered in the sanctuary room of Congregation Shir Shalom to consider how the community can “begin teaching the younger generation about compassion rather than competition.”
“We’ve seen more swastikas in our town in the last couple of months — and years,” he told mourners, who numbered upwards of about 100 people.
Marconi’s remarks were given two days after a gunman stormed in with an assault rifle, leaving 11 dead and several wounded at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
He urged residents to attend a meeting on Nov. 14 at Scotts Ridge Middle School, where the library will be hosting a discussion with Dr. Christopher Kukk, author of “The Compassionate Achiever.”
The vigil was hosted by Congregation Shir Shalom, but included faith leaders from other organizations in town.
“Please know that our prayers are with you,” said James Watson, a senior minister from First Congregational Church. He led those gathered in reading two psalms.
Rabbi David Reiner of Shir Shalom said the congregation holds “in our thoughts and our prayers” the families of those killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue, as well as the “first responders and law enforcement officers injured in the line of duty.”
Multiple news outlets reported four officers were shot and wounded during a gun battle with the suspect, later identified as Robert Bowers, 46.
In an email sent announcing the vigil, Reiner said that the synagogue “continue[s] to assess” security measures, and that Ridgefield police have provided extra patrols of the area.
A police cruiser was parked at the entrance to the synagogue at 6 p.m.
Reiner thanked Marconi for coming to the event, as well as State Rep. John Frey (R-111). Aimee Berger-Girvalo, the Democratic nominee challenging Frey’s seat, was also in attendance.
‘Irrational but instinctual fears’
Marconi read a letter from Selectwoman Barbara Manners, who was in Texas and could not attend the vigil.
“Not in our lifetimes have we ever had leaders of our country who so relished stirring up divisiveness and fear. Who constantly pit one group against another by calling them names and playing to irrational but instinctual fears,” Marconi read from Manners’ letter. “Whereas the fuel has always been there, now we have the match. And the flames are spreading faster than many of us thought possible just a few years ago.”
She encouraged everyone to vote in next week’s election.
Rabbi Reiner explained that the ceremony would not include a mourning prayer, because the dead had not yet been buried, but that mourners “certainly hold in our thoughts and our prayers” those killed.
“We do our best to homage our dead when we live our lives fully,” Reiner said.
The vigil closed with a gospel hymn — “God be with you until we meet again.”
“As Jews, we must take our prayers and tears and turn them into action,” said Marconi, reading from Manners’ letter. “We need to restore civility, decency and compassion to our country.”