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Statement About the Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting

October 29, 2018


Tree of Life SynagogueOn Saturday, we learned about the horrific shooting incident at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in which 11 people lost their lives and many others were injured. Our Jewish brothers and sisters have long suffered the deadly effects of anti-Semitism and we have been witnessing for some time the rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric and associated acts of violence that result in death and terror.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary stands in solidarity with the Jewish community as we mourn the loss of these congregants at Tree of Life, as we pray for their families and others who mourn with them, and as we continue to educate public leaders who will work for justice and for the well-being of all persons. We cannot avoid feeling helplessness in the midst of this tragedy. Nonetheless, we remain faithful in our witness against hatred and in our compassionate, broken hearts that suffer with those who are its victims.

As Christians, we read in the “Sermon on the Mount” that we are commanded to “love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.” This is one of the most difficult challenges we face in our faith. Many of us find ourselves struggling with this, especially in these days of so much hate-filled speech that incites and encourages violent action. Nevertheless, it is a struggle we are called to engage, even as we render support for the victims. We pray for wisdom . . .

I have requested our Dean of the Chapel, Rev. Dr. Tércio Junker, and Ms. Cassidhe Hart, worship assistant to the chapel and administrative assistant for the Student life office, to prepare prayer space and time in the Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful for members of the Garrett-Evangelical and Northwestern communities who may seek a quiet space to pray, to cry, and to reflect together about this tragedy. 

Hillel at Northwestern University is sponsoring a vigil for the synagogue this evening at 8:30 p.m. at the Rock on the campus of Northwestern. The vigil will be led by Hillel's Campus Rabbi Brandon Bernstein, and Hillel Student Executive Board President Andie Linker. Student leaders will participate along with campus officials, including Associate Chaplain and Director of Interfaith Engagement Tahera Ahmad. Garrett-Evangelical was present last night at the Evanston Beth Emet synagogue vigil service, and we will continue to collaborate with community faith leaders to support our ongoing justice work.

Let us draw near together during these days of sorrow.