Sydney pays its respects to the Tree of Life victims

November 1, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Over 700 people came together at Sydney’s The Great Synagogue last night to pay their respects to the victims and survivors of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh.

Rabbi Dr Ben Elton (The Great Synagogue) and Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins (Emanuel Synagogue)

Rabbi Benjamin Elton read condolence messages from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Governor General David John Hurley.

Rabbis from numerous congregations took part in the memorial service and the community was joined by representatives from many religious and cultural communities including Bruce Notley-Smith MP, representing Premier Gladys Berejiklian, incoming Member for Wentworth Dr Kerryn Phelps for Wentworth, Walt Secord MLC representing Opposition Leader Luke Foley, Jill Segal representing The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Lesli Berger, president of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies,  Paul Green MLC and Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies.

In his address, Rabbi Benjamin Elton said: “We gather this evening overwhelmed by grief at the loss of eleven holy souls, murdered in the worst anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States. It has shocked the world, Jews and non-Jews alike, and we are grateful for the presence of our non-Jewish friends here with us, sharing our sorrow and giving their solidarity.

Rabbi Paul Lewin, (North Shore Synagogue) and Rabbi Yossi Friedman (Maroubra Synagogue)

We come together in a synagogue, which should be a place of peace, of prayer, of love. The Tree of Life Synagogue was just such a place, but it was transformed by a man filled with hate and rage into one of pain, suffering and death. A moment of joy, the naming of a new child, became a time of the greatest sorrow.

Who were the victims? A retired gentleman who helped a friend’s daughters with their tax returns every year, a ninety seven year old grandmother with a youthful spirit, a married couple in their eighties, a pair of brothers with intellectual disabilities who handed out prayer books as worshippers arrived, a man who became a grandfather only a year ago, a widow who had looked after her husband’s students like a second mother, a devoted family doctor who volunteered with the Chevra Kadisha, a man called ‘the religious heart of his congregation’,  a youth baseball coach. Eleven good and innocent people, all slaughtered.

He spoke about the massacre of Jews during the Crusaded saying  “that was in the eleventh century, and here we are, almost a thousand years later, witnessing new atrocities in an old pattern. ”

He concluded by saying: “When a group of Jews near Lublin was ordered so sing by a Nazi commander in 1939, they lacked the energy or the will to do so, until one of their numbers improvised new words to an old melody, and called out mir veln zey iberlebn ovinu shebashomayim, we will outlive them, our Father in Heaven. And we shall. We will continue to worship in our synagogues, send our children to Jewish schools, manifest every form of Jewish activity, as well as taking a full part in the life of wider society. We will endure, we will survive, we will flourish.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President Lesli Berger urged the community to stand firm and not be cowed by the tragedy in Pittsburgh.

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