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‘Such an unspeakable tragedy’: Area leaders show solidarity at DC synagogue

The region's top three elected leaders and religious officials from many denominations gathered for an interfaith prayer service Monday night in Northwest D.C., following the deadly attack Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue. See photos.

WASHINGTON — The region’s top three elected leaders and religious officials from many denominations gathered for an interfaith prayer service Monday night in Northwest D.C., following the deadly attack Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser offered sympathy and messages of support to the Jewish community at Adas Israel Congregation.

“No words can possibly ease the overwhelming sense of grief and sadness over such an unspeakable tragedy,” Hogan said. “Our synagogues and houses of worship must never become places of fear.”

Around 1,300 people filled the sanctuary, and an estimated 3,000 people stood outside the D.C. synagogue. Mourners of many faiths joined in reciting Jewish prayers in remembrance of the 11 people killed Saturday, when a gunman burst into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“In Virginia, we stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and we condemn this act of violence,” Northam said. “Hatred has no home in the commonwealth of Virginia.”

“For our city, I know that turning away from evil means that we stand united in love,” Bowser said. “We stand 700,000 Washingtonians-strong in denouncing anti-Semitism, ignorance and bigotry.”

The hourlong service culminated with dozens of clergy locked arm in arm in the sanctuary of the synagogue, gently swaying to a song of healing.

The main sponsors of the community service are the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Following Saturday’s deadly shooting, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is pledging $100,000 and is asking for public donations that would be used to improve security at area synagogues.

“We want to ensure that every synagogue, every communal organization have the resources necessary to provide a safe and secure space for all who choose to enter,” said Zach Briton, the federation’s chief donor experience officer.

Funding is expected to be used to provide both long-term security improvements and also be used to boost immediate security needs at some area synagogues.

The 20-minute attack Saturday during a baby-naming ceremony at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill also wounded six others, including four police officers. The suspect, Robert Bowers — believed to have spewed anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media — was charged with 29 federal counts, including hate crimes and weapons offenses.

Bowers appeared briefly in federal court Monday in a wheelchair and handcuffs. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty against the 46-year-old suspect.

WTOP’s Madeleine Simon and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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