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Bay Ridge Comes Together at Candlelight Vigil for Tree of Life Victims

“Our hearts are full.”

That was the sentiment of Bay Ridge Cares President Karen Tadross immediately following a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, held in the schoolyard of P.S. 185 on Thurs., Nov. 1.

Organized by Bay Ridge Cares – a local non-profit organization built on supporting those in need – the remembrance, dubbed “We Are One,” and which over 200 people attended, was organized in the wake of the Sat., Oct. 27 mass shooting that occurred at Tree of Life, Or L’Simcha Congregation, while Shabbat morning services and a bris (the Jewish ceremony of circumcision) were being held.

Eleven people were killed, and seven were injured, making the shooting the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in United States history.

The Bay Ridge event also served as a vigil, organizers said, for the victims of the Kroger grocery store shooting in Kentucky on Wednesday, Oct. 31, in which two black people were killed by a shooter who first tried to enter a predominantly black church nearby.

Among the speakers at the vigil were Reverend Khader Khalilia of Redeemer St. John’s Lutheran Church, who posed the question, “What do we mean when we talk about freedom?”

“Real freedom, if you ask any community that has ever been in the minority, that has ever faced real oppression and risen above it again – real freedom is freedom from fear,” he told the crowd. “It is the freedom to be who you are, openly, expressively, in public, and to trust that your fellow citizens will not persecute you for it. It is the freedom to be welcoming; to leave your synagogue or church doors open and greet every newcomer with open arms without having to worry that they may be an angel of death in disguise.”

He encouraged the crowd to “confront hate” when they hear it.

“Even when confronting it may be uncomfortable or risky,” Khalilia said, “we no longer have time to be comfortable. In order for love to win, we have to commit to it actively. In order to have real peace, we have to be willing to unsettle the peace and quiet. We can resolve to make the light of love shine brighter than the fire of hate.”

Other speakers included Rabbi Robert Judd of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center, Imam Nazrul Islam of the Muslim Community Center and Pastor Seth Hoffman of Christ Central Church. Bay Ridge Prep High School student Derek Privman read the responsorial poem.

The vigil, Tadross wrote on Facebook, “was attended by neighbors, clergy, local leaders, people of all faiths, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation and many children. We are so very grateful to everyone who joined us tonight in spreading the message that We Are One and hate has no place in our community, our city, our state, our country and our world.

“You did good Bay Ridge,” Tadross went on.

When speaking to this paper, Tadross said that the evening “represented hope,” which was the group’s goal. “We just want to make sure that people of all faiths and of all ethnicities – everyone – knows that they are welcome in our community, and that we’re going to use our voices to protect them.”

To that effect, she continued, “Everybody has a voice. We’re going to make a firm decision whether or not we’re going to use it.

“We’re hoping that last night inspired everybody to find their voice, and to use it to build love – not hate,” Tadross said.

Bay Ridge Cares board members also read out the names of the victims of last week’s attacks.

P.S. 185 is located at 8601 Ridge Boulevard.

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