VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver’s Jewish community wants the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting to be remembered and celebrated for who they were, not just as a “piece of news.”
Ezra Shanken, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, says Vancouver’s Jewish institutions have always been security minded and for a number of years now, Vancouver’s synagogues, the clergy and other parts of the community have been working at increasing security while retaining the openness of places of worship and other institutions.
“We take it very seriously, but we don’t believe that there is any credible threats to any of our institutions as of right now,” Shanken tells NEWS 1130.
“People should feel safe to enter our [Jewish Community Centre] and to stand shoulder to shoulder with us. We’re not going to be deterred by this type of violence to go and practice our religion.”
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On a personal level, Shanken says he was “shattered” when he heard the attack happened during a brit milah, or baby naming ceremony, especially since he had the ceremony for his son five months ago.
“The idea that that was shattered by this terrible act of violence hit me to the core of my soul,” Shanken says. “I can remember the joy of bringing my son into this Jewish community, as many faiths have these types of customs for bringing people in, that was my moment with my son. That moment for that family is ruined.”
— Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver (@JewishVancouver) October 28, 2018
Robert Gregory Bowers killed eight men and three women inside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday during worship services before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, authorities said in state and federal affidavits.
Officials said at a news conference Sunday the 11 victims ranged in age from 54 to 97 and included a married couple, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, and two brothers, Cecil and David Rosenthal.
The Allegheny County medical examiners’ office released the victims’ names Sunday. David Rosenthal was the youngest at 54. The eldest was 97-year-old Rose Mallinger.
The dead also included Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Jerry Rabinowitz, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger.
Bowers, who authorities said used an AR-15 rifle and three handguns in the attack, told an officer while he was being treated for his injuries “that he wanted all Jews to die and also that they (Jews) were committing genocide to his people,” a Pittsburgh police affidavit said.
A tactical team found Bowers on the third floor, where he shot two officers multiple times, an affidavit said.
Vancouver holds vigil Sunday afternoon
Vancouverites who wanted to commemorate the victims of the shooting in Pittsburgh attended a memorial service at the Jewish Community Centre on 41st Avenue near Oak Street at 4 p.m.
Attendees were asked to leave bags at home for security reasons.
Vancouver Police have increased their presence around Jewish community buildings following yesterday’s deadly shooting, although it’s not believed there’s an increased threat to the community.
— with files from Taran Parmar and The Associated Press