Vigil held to commemorate victims of Pittsburgh synagogue attack

A multi-faith crowd gathered Radcliffe Square last night to commemorate the victims of last weekend's mass shooting

PHOTO: Simon Hunt

Several hundred students and members of the Oxford community attended a vigil at Radcliffe Square last night to commemorate the victims of this weekend’s mass shooting at a Sabbath service at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

A multi-faith crowd listened to and participated in Hebrew and English prayers, and spiritual readings led by leaders of the Oxford Jewish Society (JSoc), who hosted the event.

Attendees also lit candles to commemorate the eleven dead and six injured. Saturday’s attack is believed to be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.

JSoc organisers began the vigil by proclaiming: “We stand here tonight in solidarity with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and all those effected by the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue.” After noting, “our Jewish community can always rely on the strength and the solidarity of the wider Oxford community,” they read aloud the list of victims of the attack.

The vigil continued with Hebrew prayers for the souls of the deceased and for healing of those injured and harmed physically and mentally in the attack.

The vigil formally concluded at 8:00pm with a reading “A Prayer for Pittsburgh”, written by gun-control advocate Rabbi Menachem. However, attendees continued commemoration and Hebrew prayer until 8:30pm.

During the vigil, JSoc President Harrison Engler referred to recent attacks in Charleston, Orlando, and Finsbury Park, saying: “In all these cases individuals were targeted at places they felt safe, surrounded by other like them.”

Mr Engler told Cherwell that the vigil’s large number of participants showed “the people of Oxford stood up and showed they wouldn’t stand for anti-Semitism in Pittsburgh the same way they won’t stand for it here.”

Vigil attendees were as young as five years old and came from a variety of faith backgrounds.

Members of Oxford Jewish Society (JSOC) lead the vigil

One attendee said she reacted “with shock but not surprise” to the news of the attack and wanted to attend the vigil to “share in community with other students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to express our grief at this trauma that has afflicted our community.”

A 46 year-old has been arrested as a suspect in the mass shooting and faces twenty-nine charges. Media reports have drawn attention to their social media record of promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

The suspect will appear for a first appearance in court today.