Winnipeggers pack synagogue for vigil to honour Pittsburgh shooting victims

Hundreds of people, many standing shoulder to shoulder, gathered inside the sanctuary at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in Winnipeg Tuesday night for a vigil to remember those killed and injured in the mass shooting in Pittsburgh.

Hundreds take part in ceremony to remember people killed, injured by gunman on Saturday

Hundreds of people from all faiths gathered at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue on Oct. 30, 2018 to remember the 11 people who died in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. (Tyson Kosik/CBC)

Hundreds of people, many standing shoulder to shoulder, gathered inside the sanctuary at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in Winnipeg Tuesday night for a vigil to remember those killed and injured in the mass shooting in Pittsburgh.

Eleven people were killed and several injured, including police officers, when a gunman stormed the Tree of Life Congregation on Saturday or the Shabbat — the Jewish day of rest often spent with family.

Tree of Life worshippers were taking part in a baby-naming ceremony when the horror unfolded.

"We just want to show our solidarity with the people in Pittsburgh and the horrendous situation that they went through," said Laurel Malkin, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

The suspect in Saturday's shooting is a 46-year-old who frequently posts anti-Semitic messages and slurs on social media.

"Unfortunately, as members of the Jewish community, we always have to be vigilant," said Malkin. "Anti-Semitism is on the rise. We've had it in the past, obviously it continues."

'We will continue to live our lives'

Winnipeggers packed every row at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue on Tuesday to remember the lives lost.

As part of the vigil, 11 candles were lit to honour the dead. Students from Brock Corydon School sang the Canadian anthem and Gray Academy of Jewish Education students sang the Israeli anthem, prayers were spoken and a shofar was sounded. 

Politicians, including federal MP Jim Car, MLA Heather Stefanson, Wab Kinew and Dougald Lamont, Mayor Brian Bowman and Police Chief Danny Smyth took part in Tuesday's vigil. (Tyson Kosik/CBC)

Attendees included members of Winnipeg's Christian and Muslim communities and dignitaries Mayor Brian Bowman, Families Minister Heather Stefanson, Opposition Leader Wab Kinew, Member of Parliament Jim Carr, as well as Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth.

"I think it's important that we're all united," said Smyth.

Members of Winnipeg police were both inside and on guard outside the synagogue during Tuesday's service. While there is no immediate known threat to the Jewish community in the city, Smyth said the service remains in contact with rabbis across Winnipeg, should any concerns arise. 

Simon Blaikie, parish priest of St. George's Anglican Church, called Saturday's shooting a "travesty."

"Everyone suffers the same way and to see people suffer this way, if it does not draw us together, than nothing ever will," Blaikie said. "We gather here this evening to share our common humanity and our distaste for the repugnant in life."

Winnipeg's Jewish community will remain vigilant but is determined to continue to live and worship in the open, in the face of hatred, said Malkin.

"We won't let anybody stop us. We'll be proud Jews. Proud Canadians. And we will continue to live our lives."

The vigil was one of several across Canada to honour the victims in Pittsburgh. Communities also gathered in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.

Corrections

  • We initially reported that students from Gray Academy of Jewish Education sang both the Canadian and Israeli anthems. In fact, Brock Corydon School students sang the Canadian anthem and Gray Academy students sang the Israeli anthem.
    Oct 31, 2018 12:09 PM CT

About the Author

Laura Glowacki

Reporter

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Winnipeg. Before moving to Manitoba in 2015, she worked as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.