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Rabbis And Temples Prepare For Sabbath A Week After Tragedy In Pittsburgh

Temple Israel is a conservative Jewish Synagogue in South Charlotte and one of several synagogues in Mecklenburg County.
Cole del Charco
Temple Israel is a conservative Jewish Synagogue in South Charlotte and one of several synagogues in Mecklenburg County.

From sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday is Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, and many Rabbis are preparing to deliver messages a week after 11 people were killed in a Jewish temple in Pittsburgh.

At temple Temple Kol Tikvah in Lake Norman, a police car was in the field by the synagogue last Sunday. That was unusual and prompted Rabbi Michael Shields’ son to ask why it was there.

“I told him so people would feel safe,” Shields said. “And he said, ‘I always feel safe at the Bim Bom house, at the synagogue,’ he calls it the Bim Bom house.”

In a few short years, Shields knows his son will learn the reality that some people may dislike him just because he’s different.

In any Shabbat service, there is a duality among the people who come to worship. There are people experiencing joy, and others experiencing grief.

“My hope is that Shabbat peace will be both of those things -- we’ll be able to celebrate something joyful which should lift us all in terms of two of our young people coming of age, but also we’ll be able to speak through the liturgy and the words offered to those who are feeling great brokenness.”

Rabbi Shields said he’s seen a rise in anti-Semitic behavior and words in the last couple years, especially from what students in middle school to college have told him. 

He’s not alone. The Anti-Defamation League found a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in 2017.

In South Charlotte, Rabbi Murray Ezring of Temple Israel said Jews around the world have faced the reality of increased security when worshipping for years.

Ezring said any house of worship should be conscious of security. In this political climate, he says, civil discourse is non-existent, and until it returns there will be more attacks. 

Jewish synagogues should be especially cautious because of a tenet of their faith, he says.

“Judaism emphasizes ‘Pikuach Nefesh,’ saving lives,” Ezring said. “Therefore, we will make sure that when people come to be with us, we will do everything we can to ensure people’s safety.”

Synagogues across the region will remember the tragedy of last week this Sabbath, including an interfaith memorial service Friday night at Temple Emanuel in Gastonia.

Cole del Charco is a journalist, writer and radio producer from Hickory, North Carolina.