Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

London’s Jewish community hosting vigil following Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

A group representing London’s Jewish community has organized a vigil to honour the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Eleven people were killed and six others were wounded when a man opened fire in the Tree of Life Synagogue with an AR-15 assault rifle and three handguns, all purchased legally.

Robert Bowers has been charged in the attack that police are describing as a hate crime. He reportedly told police “I just want to kill Jews.”

Like many other cities across Canada and the U.S., members of London’s Jewish community are inviting residents to a memorial and vigil event to pay tribute to those impacted by the tragedy.

“As members of the Jewish community, we believe in an inclusive, loving society,” said Joe Roberts, executive director of Jewish London. “We want to be part of that change, we want to be helpful in that change, so that’s why we’re having this vigil on Thursday night, to bring people together, to mourn this tragedy, to think about the future, and to work together towards a common goal.”

Participants will hear from local Jewish community leaders, as well as leaders from other faith backgrounds, which Roberts believes is critical.

“It’s absolutely necessary,” he said. “We were there when those attacks [on other faiths] happened, we stand with our brothers and sisters when they’re under threat, we need them to be there for us as well. I think that this also extends to the police services, there were four officers injured in the attack. This is violence against everyone, it’s not just violence against the Jewish community.”

Roberts admits it’s disheartening that these types of incidents force them to re-evaluate their security measures.

“At the end of the day, we can only be so safe,” he said. “We have plans in place, all of our community services and community organizations know those plans, we have an alert system if something were to happen, we work very closely with London police to ensure that our facilities are secure. I’ve been in close touch with them since the incident occurred on Saturday. As you can imagine there’s a lot of fear, especially since we have children in these buildings, but we’re being assured by our national partners that there is no other threat, at least on their radar, they don’t see anything, and this [appears] to be an isolated incident, and we can only hope that it is.”

Following a bomb threat at the Jewish Community Centre last year, Roberts said they updated their security policies and revisit them frequently. In light of Saturday’s shooting, the centre is considering conducting active shooter training.

“It’s unfortunate and something that I wish we didn’t have to do at all,” he said.

Everyone is welcome to attend the vigil on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. at the London Jewish Community Centre, located at 536 Huron St.

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