8/8/19: This post has been updated to include a quote from Shira Goodman.
A prayer vigil held Aug. 6 at Love Park in Center City called for an end to gun violence in response to weekend mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, that left 31 dead.
Rabbi Shawn Zevit of Mishkan Shalom, a member of the interfaith organization POWER – Philadelphia Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild, spoke of the two tragedies in connection to the upcoming Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning and reflection for the Jewish people to commemorate the destruction of the first and second temples and the exile from Jerusalem.
“And so the sages on the ashes of such an endeavor were left to understand how this could have happen to us. And the conclusion they came to was not that some bad luck had happened, but rather basic hatred between people,” Zevit said. “And the Roman army and their might was simply the instrument that pointed out where there had already been corruption and decay, because people were not paying attention to how to love each other without reason as opposed to hate each other with reason.”
Speakers including Sen. Bob Casey Jr., U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, state Sen. Larry Farnese and state Rep. Brian Sims, who urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call the Senate back into session to strengthen gun control laws. Two House-passed bills strengthening federal background checks for gun buys have not been put up for a vote in the Senate.
HIAS Pennsylvania Executive Director Cathryn Miller-Wilson also spoke, urging people to welcome asylum seekers and refugees in response to the attack in El Paso. The alleged perpetrator of the attack posted a document online to the website 8Chan.com detailing white nationalist and racist hatred toward immigrants and Hispanics.
“There’s a straight line between the shootings in El Paso and the closure of the refugee resettlement program, which is imminent because of the hate, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee rhetoric which is coming from our federal government,” Miller-Wilson said. “It is not tolerable. We’re here to say that we support any measure that leaves us, as a people, more safe and more secure.”
Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, which organized the rally, felt the event went well. “We were honored that so many community partners came out to honor the victims of gun violence, commit to action and pledge to disarm hate,” said Goodman, who serves on the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Board of Trustees and the Perelman Jewish Day School board. “Together, we will make it impossible for Harrisburg and D.C. to ignore the voices calling for change.”
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