Rabbi Sharyn Henry of Rodef Shalom Congregation joined Mayor Bill Peduto and members of the Pittsburgh Clergy Consortium in a prayer vigil on Monday, June 13. The event, which was held outside of the City-County Building, featured prayers, songs and speeches in remembrance of the victims of Sunday’s Orlando, Fla., massacre, in which 49 people were killed by a lone gunman at Pulse, a gay nightclub.
Henry said that she was “honored to participate. I feel like it’s not a LGBTQIA issue, it’s an issue for all of us. I want to show the support of my community.”
Henry opened the event, which was attended by more than 1,000 people including several members of Rodef Shalom, by reciting an adapted prayer from Alden Solovy, an Israeli-based liturgist, poet and educator.
Those gathered downtown listened to Henry’s orison, as well as subsequent remarks from local clergy and members of the LGBTQ community.
“I felt privileged to be included in that crowd,” said Henry, adding that vigils can only go so far.
“People are looking at mass shootings, terrorism, anti-LGBTQ sentiments, anti-Latino sentiments, so it’s complicated,” she said. “I’m aware that there are many people who get sick of hearing about thoughts and prayers because thoughts and prayers aren’t going to solve these issues. The issues are complex, and it will take a lot of smart people to figure them out. In the meantime, we can pray, [although] I do appreciate that people are saying ‘stop sending your thoughts and prayers and do something.’”
Apart from Henry’s participation in the citywide vigil, Rodef Shalom is considering additional responses to the massacre.
“I think we’ll look for opportunities to continue to be supportive or to be helpful,” Henry said. “We need to see what people are going to be asking of us in the next couple of weeks.”
The Community Relations Council (CRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will take three actions in the wake of Sunday’s massacre:
•Work to promote a wider understanding of the LGBT community throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania;
•Advocate to prevent gun violence, both at a local and national level, while also supporting the 2nd Amendment;
•Work to educate the Greater Pittsburgh community on the difference between Islamic extremism and Islam.
“This is a profound act of terror,” said Cindy Goodman-Leib, chair of the CRC. “We are devastated over this loss of life and stand in solidarity with the LGBT communities in Orlando, Pittsburgh, and throughout the world. As Jews, we understand what it is like to be targeted for no reason other than our identity, and we recognize that those who hate typically don’t only hate one group of people. Sunday morning’s attack happened to be directed at the LGBT community, but it could have just as easily been any one of us.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.