WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- Several vigils were planned to honor the victims of the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and that includes a service at the Jewish Community Center in Wilkes-Barre.
“There is a feeling of sadness, saddened by the loss of innocent lives as people were just going to pray,” said Rabbi Uri Perlman, speaking at the podium to the crowd filling the room at the Jewish Community Center on Monday.
The solemn gatherers reflected on the tragic violence that erupted when a gunman opened fire inside the Tree of Life Synagogue this weekend, killing 11 worshippers.
Still, while it was a night of mourning, this was also a time to hope and heal.
“That's what it’s about,” said Rabbi David Kaplan of Wilkes-Barre. “Healing and it's not just for the Jewish community. I think people really felt this was a breach of every American, every human.”
And maybe due to that sentiment, multiple religious groups were involved in putting this vigil together.
“I thought they did an amazing job in bringing forth hope and having us look to being better people and being kinder in spreading joy and hope,” said Laurie Schwager from Kingston.
“I think it was incredibly powerful. This community is so loving and supportive,” said a tearful Cindy Loftus-Vergari from Mountain Top.
There were so many people at this vigil that the crowd overflowed into the lobby of the JCC.
“It's amazing,” said Schwager. “I was out in the vestibule, and the line just went on and on and so many friends of our community, so it really meant a lot to me.”
“It was amazing. It was so profound to have so many people, so many heartfelt feelings here tonight. It was palpable,” said Kaplan.
Organizers believe the service drew a crowd of roughly 400 people.
“I'm not at all shocked,” said Loftus-Vergari. “I think this is a wonderful community, and regardless of our religion, we stand together against evil.”
The Jewish Community Alliance which operates the JCC in Wilkes-Barre is collecting donations for the victims in Pittsburgh. Checks can be made out to “JCA.” Write “Pittsburgh” in the memo section and mail to:
60 S. River Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
If you would like to make a donation using a credit card, call 570-824-4646 and ask for Tracey.