Community vigil honors Tree of Life shooting victimsChad Kampbell October 30, 2018 1 COMMENT
Community members, local faith leaders and elected officials gathered at Marketplace Park on Sunday evening to hold a candlelight vigil in memory of the victims of the mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
The attack occurred on Saturday morning during regular Sabbath services and is being called “the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. 11 people died in the attack.
The Oct. 28 vigil was organized by local resident Patti Sulpizio. After the national anthem played from speakers and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, Sulpizio spoke to the crowd of about 175 attendees.
“I started calling friends of mine – and texting – and using social media and asking if they would come and do this together with us tonight,” Sulpizio said. “My friends said ‘Yes, of course.’”
Local Moms Demand Action organizer Kat Walker advocated for a series of legislative solutions that are a part of MDA’s “common-sense” gun reform platform.
“We know that states with the most common-sense gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths,” Walker said. She then read through a series of gun-control measures that Pennsylvania does not have, including requirements to report lost or stolen firearms, restrictions to child access and licensing requirements.
“It is up to us to elect lawmakers who will put our safety first and address gun violence with common sense solutions that will save lives,” Walker said. “In Santa Clarita, we’re lucky enough to have two gun-sense endorsed candidates running in this election for Congress and State Assembly: Katie Hill and Christy Smith.”
Rick Eaton, a senior researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, advocated for a reduction in the amount of heated rhetoric online.
“If you look at recent years, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a mosque in Minnesota, a church in South Carolina, a Jewish community center in Kansas City and now a synagogue in Pittsburgh,” Eaton said. “All victims of horrendous violence and much of it, unfortunately, a lot to do with it had to be the super-heated rhetoric that we see online every single day.”
Eaton specifically called out online behavior as a primary influence on hatred and called on vigil attendees to help tone down the rhetoric. “We need to take a pledge tonight we need to say that we’re going to turn it down – even if all it means that we avoid one more argument on Facebook that we really didn’t need to have,” Eaton said.
Several elected officials were in attendance, including Assemblymember Dante Acosta (R-Valencia), Newhall School District Governing Board President Christy Smith and Saugus Union School District Board of Trustees members Julie Olsen and Chris Trunkey.
“What I know about our community is that we are resolute in our sense of community and in our ability to be moral leaders for one another,” Smith said when she addressed the crowd.
When it was his turn to speak, Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami listed the 11 victims, tearing up as he read their names.
“Tonight we mourn the murder not of young people, not of children, but of people age 54-97, husbands and wives, brothers, congregants who gathered together yesterday on our Sabbath to pray together but instead who were murdered together,” Blazer said.
Blazer believes the larger community can play a role in curbing hate crimes.
“One of the greatest ways of combating hatred is spreading knowledge and helping people just meet people of different backgrounds,” Blazer said. “An attack on a minority community is not just an attack on one specific particular community, it’s an attack on our whole country and really on humanity.”