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Vigil in North York to honour victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Oct 29th, 2018

A vigil will be held in North York on Monday night to honour the victims of a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Joyce Fienberg was among the 11 people who were killed on Saturday when a gunman opened fire on worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Fienberg grew up in Toronto and was a member of the Holy Blossom Temple before moving to the U.S. with her husband.

The vigil takes place at 7 p.m. at Mel Lastman Square.

Over the weekend, vigils and rallies were organized in a number of Canadian cities, including Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax and Vancouver.

In Ottawa, more than 300 people packed into the Soloway Jewish Community Centre for a Sunday evening memorial service, lining the walls and taking every available chair — except 11, left vacant on the stage, each bearing the name of one of the victims.

Dena Libman, whose cousin Joyce Fienberg was among those killed, addressed the crowd of residents, religious leaders and politicians from all parties and levels of government.

She said that in the Jewish world, it feels like everyone is a member of the same family — it’s just that some are closer than others.

Afterwards, she said there is healing that comes from gathering as a community.

“I felt the collective grief, and the collective vision to go forward,” she said.

Several armed police officers stood sentry over the event, although Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau told the crowd there are no existing threats against the community.

Federal Liberal cabinet minister and local MP Catherine McKenna called it sad that such security was a fact of life for Jewish communities.

She pointed to Statistics Canada data showing that Jews were the most targeted minority for hate crimes, saying anti-Semitism is not just an issue for the United States.

“It is times like this that we stand together, that we are outraged together … and that we remember that we are better together,” McKenna said.

Montreal-based Rabbi Reuben Poupko, who is originally from Pittsburgh, said no Jewish community was left untouched by the shooting, which left 11 people dead and six injured, including four police officers.

A vigil set for Monday evening at Montreal’s Beth Israel Beth Aaron synagogue will be a chance for community members to draw hope and strength from each other, he said in a phone interview.

“All of us can relate to what happened,” Poupko said. “We go to synagogues that look just like (Tree of Life) synagogue. Our ties and bonds of history and of solidarity and our values are very strong.”

Poupko said Jewish people have always been targets of hate crimes, both in Canada and elsewhere, but he said they’ve never experienced anything like Saturday’s mass shooting.

“Eleven people murdered in a synagogue in an outrageous act of evil,” he said, becoming emotional as he spoke about 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, a Holocaust survivor who died in the Pittsburgh shooting.

“To survive the Holocaust and find refuge in a free country and lose your life doing what you’re supposed to do, going to synagogue on a Saturday morning … is not a thing that is easily understood,” he said.

Poupko said Montreal’s synagogues were remaining open and the community would continue to fight acts of hate in the only way they know how, “which is to lead lives of tolerance.”


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