Ceremony of Solidarity and Hope Held for People of All Faiths at Minnesota's Largest Synagogue

October 28, 2018 10:20 PM

For the Jewish community in Minnesota, the shooting 900 miles away in Pittsburgh hit close to home.

Especially for a Minnetonka couple, Barb and Brian Herstig. They were part of the 1,500 people who attended a gathering of "Solidarity and Hope" at Temple Israel in Minneapolis Sunday.


"My husband was a member of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, he was a congregant of the Tree of Life and was a board member at the temple, he spent the last day waiting to hear the names to see if anyone he knew was a victim," said Barb Herstig.

When the 11 names were released, the couple was relieved they didn't know any of them. Still, they said, the shooting is a painful reminder that anti-Semitism exists.

The Herstigs became emotional when they realized how many people were in the room, singing together. Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman looked around the packed sanctuary, with people standing along the walls, filling the balcony and an overflow room and said, "We are here, the entire Jewish community is here, and every other perspective."

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Steve Hunegs is with the Jewish Community Relations Council. He took the podium to read a letter from Gov. Mark Dayton, who wasn't in attendance because he is recovering at the Mayo in Rochester from back surgery.

"Freedom of faith is the greatness of our nation, the promise that people may worship freely without fear or harm or consequence," one sentence from the governor read.

Whether Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, strangers squeezed in, shoulder to shoulder in a powerful display of unity. There were two minutes of silence at the beginning of the service, followed by a blast of the Shofar. The names of the 11 victims in Pittsburgh were shared.

"While blood soaks the ground in Pittsburgh, the resilience of people here believe a Tree of Life might grow again in the darkness of the moment," said Rabbi Aaron Weininger with the Minnesota Rabbinical Association.

Facing safety concerns like never before at Jewish houses of worship or community centers, congregants Sunday had their bags and purses checked before entering the temple. Minneapolis police officers were posted throughout the building, both inside and out.  The ramped-up presence was part of enhanced security throughout Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

The Jewish Community Relations Council shared updated statistics on the acts of hostility so far this year in the Twin Cities, which is 18.  There were 28 last year. In fact, Temple Israel was vandalized with graffiti in 2013.  


Beth McDonough

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