Mass shooting victims from synagogue, church gather
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Members of New Light Congregation of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 died in a mass shooting by an anti-Semitic gunman last fall have traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, to worship with members of the Emanuel AME Church where nine black worshippers died in 2015 at the hands of a white supremacist.
The Pittsburgh congregation traveled to Charleston for the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend for a show of unity and celebration. The two groups worshiped together Friday and Sunday in Charleston.
Rabbi Jonathan Perlman leads New Light Congregation.
On Friday, he stood at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, a local Reform congregation, with Emanuel shooting survivor Polly Sheppard.
On Sunday, he stood in a mass of sorrow at Emanuel’s altar rail hugging its senior pastor, the Rev. Eric S.C. Manning. Church members came forward from their pews to wrap him and his group in a sea of hugs, tears.
Manning, who flew to Pittsburgh to comfort synagogue members shortly after the mass shooting there, used his sermon on Sunday to implore people to love one another during divisive times. To do so, he referenced a line from one of King’s sermons: “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
Along with Perlman stood Carol Black, a fellow survivor of the synagogue shooting. She hid in a closet while a gunman killed her brother, 65-year-old Richard Gottfried, a beloved dentist. Gottfried’s wife, who organized the trip to Charleston, joined them. So did Gottfried’s twin sister, Debi Salvin, who celebrated her first birthday without him precisely one week earlier.
Three of the 11 people who died inside Tree of Hope were members of New Light.
“I’m sad in 2019 that Jews and African Americans are united by having been slaughtered in their houses of worship in the United States of America,” said Beth Kissileff Perlman, the rabbi’s wife. “We share many bonds and, unfortunately, this is one of them.”