The shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 resonates deeply within the Jewish community of Columbus, indicated by the many who attended an Oct. 28 prayer vigil at the Jewish Community Center of Columbus on the East Side.
JewishColumbus and the Columbus Board of Rabbis organized the vigil.
There were 500 chairs set up in the hall at the center, but they weren't enough. An estimated 800 people crowded into the center with many standing out in the hall for the hourlong ceremony.
Eleven people died Oct. 27 when a gunman charged into the synagogue and opened fire on people gathered for sabbath services and a baby-naming ceremony. Robert Gregory Bowers, who holds virulent anti-Semitic views, faces numerous federal and state charges in the killing of 11 people and wounding of six others, including four police officers.
"It was a baby-naming ceremony. A baby-naming ceremony. How do we as a community reconcile this? I don't know. I have no answers. I don't know what propels such evil to commit such an act," said Joel Marcovitch, CEO of JewishColumbus.
Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown said she was horrified by the news, but a part of her wasn't shocked.
Brown said her grandparents were members of the Tree of Life synagogue, and she remembers visiting them in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill when she was growing up. She is familiar with the terrain where the tragedy occurred.
As a Jew, Brown said, there are thoughts that go through one's mind about how something like this could occur. But at the same time, she said, a gathering like the one on the evening of Oct. 28 shows the strength of the community.
"Our community knows how to come together," Brown said.
When Oct. 27 dawned, it was promised to be a good day because of the planned dedication of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Franklinton, said Leslie Wexner, chairman and CEO of L Brands.
Then came news of the tragedy in Pittsburgh. Wexner said he happened to drive to the L Brands headquarters on Oct. 28, and he looked up and saw that the flags were at half-staff. He said he started to cry.
"The randomness of this. It happened in the next city to the east that's comparable to us. It could have been us. It could have been any one of our congregations," Wexner said.
He said that, at a time like this, people must step up and guard the souls of their family, the community and the country.
At the close of the ceremony, Cantor Jack Chomsky of Congregation Tifereth Israel told the audience about how he had known Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who heads the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, since when they were both students at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.
Chomsky said he exchanged messages with Myers, who wrote to him that seven of his congregants were among the dead.
And yet, through the tragedy, Myers wrote: "The outpouring of love and support of the entire world has been overwhelming."