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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Michael Barclay

Interfaith service continues prayers for Tree of Life

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

At a vigil Sunday night honoring the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Rabbi Michael Barclay said the appropriate response to the tragedy was to find someone of a different political leaning and get to know them.

“A tragedy like this brings us together,” he said. “Our response is not to politicize things but to respect each other.”

Members of Barclay’s Temple Ner Simcha, Chabad of Newbury Park and a variety of Christian congregations gathered at Godspeak Calvary Chapel Nov. 4 to light candles in honor of the 11 members of the Tree of Life synagogue who were killed Oct. 27. A man identified by police as Robert Bowers, 46, entered the temple in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and opened fire on a Saturday morning Shabbat service and bris. Six people, including four police officers, were wounded.

Barclay said the massacre at the bris—a Jewish birth ceremony where a baby boy is circumcised in accordance with the covenant between God and the Jewish people— was a physical manifestation of the spiritual war between good and evil.

“You need to realize it’s being fought in the spiritual realm; we’re just acting it out,” he said.

Tom Stephen, the pastor of Monte Vista Presbyterian in Newbury Park, offered a prayer for the infant whose bris was interrupted by gunfire.

“The way we respond to evil is with strength and with love, not to allow evil to prevail but to practice justice, love and mercy,” he said. “We pray that that baby will not be marked by suffering but by a deep and abiding faith that calls us together.”

He then read a portion of Psalm 23: “Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil for you are with us.”

Rob McCoy, Godspeak pastor, said the vigil was a time to set aside ideological divides and to find comfort together as Americans.

“We’re here gathered as Christians and as Jews, interestingly enough, Republicans and Democrats. However you want to divide and label, it’s not going to work,” he said. “We’re gathered here because our heart is broken. We want to reconcile.”

Barclay ended the program by reciting the Kaddish, a Jewish prayer of praises to God said in memory of the dead.

The rabbi encouraged those in attendance to fight the forces of spiritual darkness by forging friendships with people of different backgrounds and political ideologies in order to empower the angels of God to fight the war for good in the other world so that we can have peace here.

He urged the audience to keep the faith.

“The most important thing is never, never be afraid, because the moment we are, those evil angels have won,” he said. “And where there is faith, there is not room for fear.”

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