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Pleasanton synagogues commemorate Pittsburgh victims

Rabbi Resnick: ‘We can come together and we can lean on each other’

Jewish community members in Pleasanton are mourning the weekend shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, and honoring the 11 worshipers who died there.

Both the Chabad of the Tri-Valley and Congregation Beth Emek held memorials for the victims of Saturday's mass shooting in Pennsylvania in which a gunman opened fire during a service at the Tree of Life synagogue. It is believed to be the deadliest single attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.

“These lives were cut short, were extinguished, on the holy Sabbath, in a Jewish center,” said Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, spiritual leader for the Chabad, at a memorial Monday night. “In a house of worship, on the holiest day of the week, these lives were taken from us.”

“We really tonight don’t have many words to offer,” he added. “But we can come together and we can lean on each other.”

The memorial preceded an already-planned event, a speech to commemorate the 80th anniversary of another deadly attack on the Jewish people: Kristallnacht, or “The Night of Broken Glass,” which is often seen as marking the start of the Holocaust.

Over 100 people attended the memorial at the Chabad, including a handful of local elected officials such as Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne, Livermore Mayor John Marchand, Dublin Mayor David Haubert and Assemblywoman Catharine Baker.

“Eighty years ago, it was the government that was perpetrating these heinous acts,” Resnick said. “Tonight it’s the government that protects us. We are honored to have members, elected officials here tonight who are here to declare that we live in a country that protects and values each and every life, regardless of race, creed, religion.”

Thorne then lit a ceremonial candle before speaking to the crowd.

“I’m just not sure how you put words around something like what happened in Pittsburgh,” he said. “Something as heinous and hateful and just flat-out mean as that was.” He added that while his first instinct may have been to throw blame, events like this instead call for compassion for all, including someone who had “so much hate in their soul” to commit such an act.

Baker said the massacre was a call for all to reject hate in unity with one another.

“I was reminded of how much of the Jewish faith is about light prevailing over darkness. Love prevailing over hate. Knowledge over ignorance.”

The lecture that followed was given by Rabbi Y. M. Wagner, a spiritual leader in Krefeld, Germany, and the first German-born rabbi since the Holocaust. He spoke to the crowd on post-Holocaust Jewish life and confronting anti-Semitism.

Congregation Beth Emek also held its own memorial service in Pleasanton in response to the deadly attack, on Sunday night.

“Violence against Jews is the inevitable consequence of the rhetoric of incitement, of xenophobia, of the demonization of all minorities,” said Rabbi Laurence Milder, the spiritual leader at Congregation Beth Emek.

“The responsibility to defuse an incendiary culture rests with all of us, with our willingness to call out racism and hate speech,” he added. “It is up to us to hold accountable those who fan the fear of the enemy within. This is the fear that galvanized a madman to murder peaceful Jews who had gathered to worship God on their day of peace.”

In the days following the tragedy in Pittsburgh, Pleasanton’s flags were flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.

On Nov. 11, Beth Emek will be hosting its own memorial event to commemorate the anniversary of Kristallnacht, during which 91 Jews were killed, 30,000 arrested, 191 synagogues were destroyed and 7,500 shops looted, according to congregation leaders. Guest speaker Fred Rosenbaum, founding director emeritus of Lehrhaus Judaica, will discuss the history of that day, and what lessons can be learned for today.

“The events of Nov. 9, 1938 are a reminder that hateful rhetoric lays the groundwork for violence, and that acts of violence lay the groundwork for genocide,” Milder said.

The lecture begins at 7 p.m. at Congregation Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, with a suggested $10 donation. Students are invited to attend for free.

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