Faith leaders show solidarity with Jews at Richmond synagogue

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by Mike Kinney

Multiple faith organizations in West Contra Costa County were represented at a solidarity Shabbat at Temple Beth Hillel on Friday — part of a national effort to support Jews in the wake of the deadly mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue last week.

Elected officials, West County Community leaders and about 125 other community members packed Temple Beth Hillel, West Contra Costa County’s only synagogue at 801 Park Central in Richmond, for a potluck and solidarity Shabbat. 

The crowd sang Ozi V’Zimrat at opening of the service, the same song sung the day of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 worshippers.

Rabbi Dean Kertesz called those 11 people “victims of blind hatred.”

“At times like this it is natural to feel afraid and alone,” the rabbi said. “But look around this room tonight we are not alone.”

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt attended and remarked on the power of having leaders of multiple faiths attend in solidarity.

“I saw leaders from the Sikh community, Pastor Dale Weatherspoon from Easter Hill United Methodists Church and many others,” Mayor Butt said. “I was reminded of how the community came to support the Masjid Al-Rahman mosque on 36th Street was threatened.”

Temple Beth Hillel co-founder Clara Rae Genser, who turned 100 on Friday, called the gathering “very meaningful” and the events that inspired it “very sad and unfortunately very frightening.”

“Tonight was incredibly moving….it’s just incredible the outpouring of love,” said longtime Temple Beth Hillel member Larry Fox. “It just warms my heart and makes us feel very much apart of this community.”

Michael Ny, a member of the congregation, agreed, saying “Having community members outside of our own faith be there to support us meets absolutely everything.”

“This is not an unusual thing for Jewish people to be attacked,” he said. “It’s been going on for thousands of years. It’s still going on.”

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