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Grand Rapids Jewish Community speaks out about the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue


When Sam Luken, a 22 year old resident of Grand Rapids,  first heard about the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, she and her fellow Jewish Community at Temple B’nai Israel in Muskegon were getting ready to pray. 

“We were just about to say the Mourner’s Kaddish, which is the prayer for the dead and right before we were about to say that the news came out and somebody got an alert on their phone and we were able to pray for those people at that time, right before.” 

One of the common closing prayers for Mourner’s Kaddish is Oseh Shalom. 

That is Joshua Davis, a local singer song writer and member of the Jewish community, and in response to the shooting he posted to social media a rendition of Oseh Shalom. 

“These are people first, and they are Jews second, in my mind, and there were people that were murdered in church, and people that were murdered in a gay club, and people that were murdered in school the same people as people that were murdered in the synagogue.” 

For Diane Baum, a local Torah teacher, empathy is the appropriate response to tragedies like these.  

“Don’t give a way to fear and don’t think of retaliation. Divisions are always bad when we blame the other person or the other group for a particular action against our group and I think that our society is way too divided as it is.” 

With standing room, attendants gathered at Temple Emanuel for their Friday evening service to remember and pray for the 11 lives lost.  

“An Anti-Semite wanted to kill Jews and he succeed in taking the lives of 11 of us, but what he did not succeed in doing is kill our spirits. We will continue to live Jewish lives in America. Proud of who we are. Proud of our values. Proud of our heritage. Proud of our traditions and no anti-semite is going to stop us.” 

That is Rabbi Michael Shaddick speaking to the congregation for the Shabbat service. 

Among those in attendance was Chief of the Grand Rapids Police Department, David Rahinsky, who is also a member of the Jewish community. 

“Looking at that neighborhood, Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh reminded me a little bit from the images that I saw of the neighborhood I grew up in Philadelphia. Coming from a Jewish perspective, I think here has been a concern from the Jewish community. The members that I speak to regarding an uptake in antisemitism across the country and its troubling” 

Chief Rahinsky says dialogue can help in minimizing apprehension from outsiders towards the Jewish community. 

“I think anytime we can have dialogue to make people more comfortable to address some of these illogical hatreds and fears, I think we are in a better place.” 

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News. 

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