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Hundreds Pack South Portland Synagogue To Mourn Pittsburgh Victims

Irwin Gratz
Maine Public

About 1,500 people packed a South Portland synagogue Tuesday night to mourn the 11 people gunned down in a Pittsburgh synagogue last Saturday. The rabbi of Congregation Bet Ha Am, Jared Saks, told those assembled that Judaism calls on survivors to do more than weep for the dead.

"Let our grief galvanize us," he said, "Let our mourning motivate us.  Let our tears turn our hearts toward others. Let our weeping make us wise to elect leaders that actually care about our lives."

Credit Irwin Gratz / Maine Public
Maine Public
Mourners of the Pittsburgh mass shooting victims crowd into the Congregation Bet Ha Am in South Portland Tuesday night.

The mourners filled the seats and stood along the walls, as more listened to the service from a plaza outside.  There was music, memorial candles lit for the dead, and messages filled with Jewish traditions.

Portland City Councilor Justin Costa told the audience that the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings were a symptom.

"We know that there is a sickness that has spread across out nation," Costa said, "one that leaves many of our brothers and sisters feel devalued and disrespected for their race, their class, any number of superficial characteristics."

South Portland Mayor Linda Cohen also spoke.  She said the gathering was an important step toward reinforcing the ideas of unity.

"Look around you - really look around you," Cohen said. "This is what it means when a community steps up to support its members. And I am so pround of all of you for doing this."

There was another vigil Tuesday at a Bangor Synagogue.  And in Augusta, a group of Shia Muslims that were gathered for a holiday celebration marched to demonstrate their solidarity with the Jewish community.

Originally published Oct. 31, 2018 at 8:54 a.m. ET.