This Sunday night at Temple Emanuel was unusual.
For one thing, there were around 2,500 people in the building, which would be quite a lot for a Saturday, let alone a Sunday. The enormous, beautiful assembly hall seats about 1,800.
For another thing, Denver’s oldest synagogue was packed with Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, atheists and others with a common cause.
They came to honor the lives of Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger — the 11 people killed while praying Saturday morning in an antisemitic attack on the Tree of Life Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
They came too in solidarity with the six others who were injured, with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, with the Jewish community of Denver and with Jews across the country.
Bob Jones, special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh office of the FBI, told our colleagues at The Incline that what law enforcement found in the aftermath of the shooting was “the most horrific crime scene I’ve seen in 22 years with the FBI.”
In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Anti-Defamation League Mountain States regional director Scott L. Levin said, “This is likely the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.”
And so Denverites gathered in a synagogue Sunday night, bathed for a while in fading sunlight through stained glass, to support, reflect and rally.
“We are all bound together by our grief, shock and horror,” Rabbi Joseph Black told the crowd.
That much was reflected in remarks throughout the night, which came from Levin, Governor John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen, Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz, Interfaith Alliance executive director the Rev. Amanda Henderson, Colorado Sikhs director Dilpreet Jammu, Colorado Muslim Society general counsel Qusair Mohamedbhai, JEWISHcolorado CEO Rabbi Jay Strear and Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council President Rabbi Solomon Gruenwald.
Between prayers and songs, each speaker offered words of grief, shock and horror as well as sympathy, support and solidarity.
“On behalf of all Colorado Sikhs, let me say that we are truly sorry,” Jammu said.
Speaking just after him, Mohamedbhai added, “We’ve been where you are. … It’s hard to describe, but our hearts are filled and broken at the same time.”