In February 2017, the community of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto created seven “Rings of Peace” to surround local mosques after a gunman killed six worshippers at a Quebec mosque. After the massacre of eleven worshippers at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Toronto Muslim community reciprocated the “Ring of Peace” for the local Jewish community. Below, the author shares her experience of that day.
One word states this particular Shabbat morning firmly in my mind: LOVE. One week after the horrific events at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, it proves, love trumps hate.
When I approached the front doors from the inside and saw the Ring of Peace, the compassionate faces looking upon us, resolutely with pride, enveloped in love and solidarity, one could physically feel the warmth; it was so beautiful. I felt at peace seeing a human chain of kindness mirroring us. While greeting fellow congregants, we shook hands and thanked these brave supporters. We were overcome with emotion both inside and outside the synagogue.
I cannot get the Kabbalat Shabbat and Saturday Shabbat services out of my mind. The whole experience has played out as a movie and a memory--one which I will never forget. It was good to be united in such a time and I am proud to be a member of our Temple, knowing that there is still good in this world.
There are many moments that stand out.
I was moved when Rabbi Yael Splansky began the service with consoling words of how out of a tragedy comes a blessing. Rabbi Splansky introduced the President of a local mosque who addressed the congregation as “friends.” He stated that he and his Muslim community understood our pain and that his desire to come and offer support was not out of a feeling to reciprocate the Ring of Peace members of Holy Blossom Temple formed around his mosque last year, but rather because “we feel the need we have to be with our sisters and brothers.” Rabbi Splansky described this as not being “a transaction on the part of our friends in the Muslim community, but something they just felt the need to do as human beings, one to the other.”
I started to weep as the past seven days all came to a culmination of grief for me. How close this was to home, as one of the eleven victims at the Pittsburgh synagogue, Joyce Fienburg, grew up at Holy Blossom where she was confirmed and married, before later settling in Pittsburgh.
It was such a blessing to be together, not just with fellow congregants but also with our supporters from various denominations who braved the chilly morning to form the Ring of Peace. I am most grateful.
Barbara Glaser is a member of Holy Blossom Temple Sisterhood’s Leadership Council. Professionally, she has worked for high ranking media companies in marketing, media communications, and design-art direction.