Grieving in solidarity: Support shown to Jewish community to honor those killed in Pittsburgh (PHOTO GALLERY) | TheUnion.com
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Grieving in solidarity: Support shown to Jewish community to honor those killed in Pittsburgh (PHOTO GALLERY)

You could feel the love inside the Nevada County Jewish Community Center Friday night.

At the top of Walsh Street in Grass Valley, the halls of Congretation B’nai Harim overflowed with the compassion of community members grieving, praying, and honoring in solidarity the lives of the 11 people gunned down at a Pittsburgh synagogue last week.

But the community didn’t mourn solely for those shot at the Tree of Life Synagogue during Friday’s Solidarity Shabbat. The gathering was also a chance to reiterate the need to dispel any forms of racism or hate locally, including in Grass Valley.

“We as a community must stand tall, as we have again and in the recent past, such as when we did the ‘Love Walk’ last year in September and stood up to intolerance, bigotry and hatred. We have the opportunity to continue to do that,” Grass Valley Mayor Howard Levine said to the congregation. “We should speak out against injustice and prejudice, we should be present, always, when those rear their ugly head.”

Members of all faith organizations were welcomed during the event and Rev. Kevin Tarsa of the neighboring Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains was among those asked to speak.

“Those of us who are not Jewish sit with you tonight in the ways that we can, as best we can, in the spirit of sitting shiva,” Rev. Tarsa said, in reference to the weeklong mourning period in Judaism for first degree relatives who have died.

Members of other organizations were asked to speak as well, including the Board of Supervisors.

“My heart is breaking today, too. It’s breaking for the community that suffered this most-recent loss, it’s breaking for the community, for Jewish people that have had far more than their share of hatred rained down upon them for so long, and it’s breaking for humanity, for what’s happening to us,” Supervisor Heidi Hall said during the gathering.

The Union Editor Brian Hamilton also spoke during Friday’s Shabbat and spoke of an incident where one of his teen daughters received a racist joke in a group text and became upset. She didn’t speak up, she said, because she thought she was alone in her feeling.

“We cannot tolerate intolerance. We must speak up to educate and move us forward as human beings, and to make room for the love, the love that it will take to drive out this darkness,” Hamilton said to the crowd. “And my friends, we are clearly not alone.”

Grass Valley Chief of Police Alex Gammelgard offered his condolences to the Jewish community and assured the crowd that local law enforcement are ready to mitigate a shooting event.

“It’s very easy for us to sit back in Grass Valley and say ‘This could never happen here,’ but the reality is it could, it has, and it very well could in the future,” Gammelgard said. “So the men and women of our local law enforcemnent agencies are equipped, trained, and have the tools to respond and we absolutely will. We will move toward danger to ensure the safety of others.”

“Grass Valley has it’s problems, and we’ve witnessed it,” Mayor Levine said. “But as we go from here tonight and in the coming days, weeks and months, we can be unified in knowing that we can stand up to this kind of hatred and intolerance. And I ask you, as individuals and as groups, in our community that wherever you see this kind of hatred rear its head, say something, do something.

“Be present, be without fear, because you are protecting somebody else and you are doing it in your heart and your soul.”

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez, email efunez@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4230.


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