Prayer service held in Sacramento for Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims

Chabad of Greater Sacramento held a prayer service with more than 50 people Sunday to pay respects to the 11 people killed Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue by an anti-Semitic gunman.

Rabbis Mendy Cohen and Yossi Grossbaum led prayers and lit candles at the Arden Arcade synagogue for victims in the shooting at Tree of Life, urging attendees to commit themselves to extra mitzvahs — good deeds — to fight the forces of hatred in the world.

Cohen referred to the shooting as “a senseless crime” that must be responded to with prayer, study of the Torah and charity.

“We cannot chase darkness with a broom or with a vacuum cleaner,” Cohen said. “The only way to chase darkness is with good, with selfless good.”

McGregor Scott, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, and his wife came forward to help light candles for the shooting victims.

Scott said he was shocked and horrified after hearing about the shooting, and despite being Christians, he and his wife wanted to show support because he believes in freedom of religion for all Americans.

“We should all be free in this country to practice our chosen religion as we see fit without fear of being singled out for the kind of thing that happened in Pittsburgh,” Scott said. “That’s what this country is all about.”

Grossbaum showed the congregants two cards that were signed by members of a neighboring church and mosque and sent to Chabad to express condolences.

Grossbaum stressed the importance of unity, reminding everyone that if anti-Semitic violence is perpetrated anywhere in the world, it is the concern of the entire Jewish community.

“We each have to recognize that when hatred rears its head, wherever it is, it personally affects us, individually,” Grossbaum said. “And we can’t just turn over and say, ‘You know what, it’s on the east coast.’ ”

Simply blaming certain ideologies or groups for the tragedy is tantamount to deflecting one’s personal responsibility, Grossbaum said, adding that everyone must take personal action in response.

“Some will say that the solution is to get out and vote. Some will say the solution is to go out and get a concealed carry license. Good for them,” Grossbaum said. “I’d say something that’s a lot more direct ... and that is to add a mitzvah.”

Some of the mitzvahs Cohen and Grossbaum suggested included visiting someone suffering from illness, doing volunteer work, giving money to charity or giving up a grudge.

Ava Goldman, a member of Chabad for several years, said she might help struggling friends and attend services more frequently for her extra mitzvahs.

Goldman said it was important to show solidarity and hoped the Pittsburgh community will become even stronger in its faith in the coming days.

Scott announced he had been in touch with the FBI over the weekend to prepare for any possible anti-Semitic attacks in greater Sacramento.

Although Chabad will remain vigilant in the wake of the shooting, Cohen said, “We are not afraid, we’re going to continue stronger, and that’s what will save the world.”

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