Hundreds gather in Melbourne

The prayer service for the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting. Photo: Peter Haskin

IT is often said the worldwide Jewish community is like a large extended family. The strength and solidarity of the family sparked brightly as community leaders and members gathered to remember the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting in memorial services held in Melbourne this week.

On Monday evening, 60 worshippers ached to express their grief at Conservative shule, Kehilat Nitzan.

In a service at which Kaddish was recited and candles for the slain were lit by congregants, Nitzan’s Rabbi Yonatan Sadoff, revealed that his Pennsylvanian cousin Sherry Sadoff Hanck, was brushed by Saturday’s tragedy.

Their family had been celebrating the bat mitzvah of a daughter at another Pennsylvania shule last Shabbat, but at the conclusion of the service, the rabbi who had conducted the joyous ceremony learned someone close to her had been killed at Tree of Life.

The following evening, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) hosted a prayer service in conjunction with the Council of Orthodox Synagogues in Victoria held at Caulfield Hebrew Congregation (CHC), attended by more than 400 community leaders and members.

Community member, Devi Werdiger reflected on her childhood, growing up just around the corner from the Etz Chayim Congregation in Pittsburgh. In fact, her cousins celebrated the bar and bat mitzvahs at the shule that became the devastating scene of tragedy this past Shabbat.

She detailed a warm and friendly community; Diverse, but not divisive.

“It didn’t matter where you davened or which shule you went to. We were all just the Jews of Pittsburgh.”

“Pittsburgh has 446 bridges”, she told. “It is the City of Bridges. But unfortunately, we need Pittsburgh to bridge us all together.”

CHC’s Rabbi Ralph Genende acknowledged that while we as Jews may feel alone at this time when such hateful acts are directed towards us, that we should also take comfort in the outpouring of warmth and support we have received from many here, and across the world.

“We find faith in the face of hopelessness. Courage, not despair. Conviction, not persecution. That is our message to the world. That is what we need to continue to do now. Affirm life. Choose life,” he proclaimed.