People Of All Faiths Showed Up For Shabbat To Demonstrate Their Support For The Jewish Community

Synagogues were full across the country on Friday.

Synagogues across the country were packed with people from a variety of faiths and traditions this past Friday. It was a powerful expression of unity for the Jewish community in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left 11 dead.

Instead of closing off their synagogues after the attacks, Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh and elsewhere in the U.S. began spreading the hashtag #ShowUpForShabbat in the middle of last week. Their hope was to encourage people to come out and join them for Shabbat services as a sign of the Jewish community's strength and support — and people did just that. 

Rev. Amy Butler, the senior minister at the Riverside Church in New York City, attended services at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in midtown, New York with 10 members of her Riverside Church congregation.

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"We actually planned to go to Shabbat services before the hashtag started going around," Butler told A Plus. "I'm leading a congregation of people who are just grief-stricken by what they are watching and just needed to feel like they were doing something... The spirit in the room was just really wonderful and uplifting and healing."

Attendees at the Beit Simchat Torah synagogue embrace during Shabbat services on Friday.   Karen Smul

Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, who is the scholar-in-residence on trans and LGBT issues at Beit Simchat Torah, said it was a powerful night of healing in the synagogue.

"It was the single biggest service we've ever had," Moskowitz told A Plus. "The take-home message was that the way we combat the fear of being Jewish is to be more Jewish. The way we fight back against fear and hate is that faith, to show up and be present."

Moskowitz said that Muslims attended services along with Jews, showing up out front with signs of support and even joining the congregation inside for prayer and song. The communal support, he noted, was especially moving. Growing up in West Virginia, Moskowitz recounted living amongst racists who he felt were scared, at the time, to be known for their racist beliefs. Now, though, he sometimes fears that society has created a space for people to be openly anti-Semitic or white nationalist. Seeing the turnout at the Shul reminded him that society still rejects those principals. 

"There is so much comfort in the broader community because its not just the Jewish community that is hurting," Moskowitz said.  "Coming together as a community where people can say in a singular voice we're not okay with this, this is wrong, it just helps us re-orient to a truth that we for a long time have embraced."

Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, left, speaks with attendees of Shabbat on Friday. Karen Smul

The New York Times reported that similar scenes unfolded in cities around the country. Jews, Muslims and Christians — even some people who had never stepped foot in a synagogue before — joined each other to observe the Jewish Sabbath.

"I heard from every single one of my people who were there how meaningful it was to go," Butler said. "I heard from people who were not able to go how meaningful it was to show up as Riverside Church."

Cover photo: Karen Smul

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