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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)


Antisemitic attack against
"Tree of Life" Synagogue in Pittsburgh

28 October 2018         updated: 5 November 2018
Statement from Scotland's Jewish Communities
This weekend, Jewish people from all over Scotland came together in "Scotland's Jewish Gathering" to celebrate our unity and identity as Scottish Jews. The optimistic, positive mood of this unique Gathering was shattered by the appalling news of the horrific attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, made all the more abhorrent by the hate-filled rhetoric of the killer as he attacked people at prayer.
Participants in the Gathering recited psalms and prayers for the victims, and we were heartened by the messages of solidarity we received from across Scotland. We welcome the reassurance of the police that there is no information suggesting an imminent threat to the Jewish community in Scotland.
Our keynote speaker, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, spoke movingly of solidarity between Muslim, Jewish, and other minority communities, and the need to stand together against such hatred, saying, "In Scotland we will continue to work together to tackle prejudice and build the society we want to be, where each person, every family, and all communities can flourish."
We in Scotland stand together with other Jewish people worldwide in sending our thoughts and prayers to those affected by this horrific attack and the terrible loss of life. May the injured be speedily healed, the bereaved be comforted, and memory of those who perished be a blessing.

Memorial Service in Giffnock Synagogue

SCoJeC joined the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council and all Glasgow's Jewish communities for a short memorial service in Giffnock Synagogue. The congregation of around 250 people included Scottish Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell, other MSPs, representatives of the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church, Interfaith Scotland, other faith communities, the Humanist Society, Police Scotland, and councillors from Glasgow and East Renfrewshire Councils. Prayers were read by Jewish student chaplain Rabbi Yossi Bodenheim, representatives of Garnethill, Newton Mearns, and Glasgow Reform synagogues, and candles were lit in memory of the victims by the Co-Presidents of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council and the Joint Chair of Glasgow Reform Synagogue.

In a powerful address, Rabbi Moshe Rubin, Senior Rabbi in Scotland, spoke about how the victims would have spent their Shabbat morning exactly as he had, having a leisurely breakfast, welcoming visitors, and preparing lunch for guests, before setting out to the service, little imagining it would be their last. He took issue with those who called the murderer a monster, "because it excuses his actions – it is expected of monsters that they carry out such terrible vile actions. He was a man ... but he refused to see the human being, created in the image of God, instead he was blinded by misconception and hate of Jew." He said that the picture of a man in a tallit outside the Pittsburgh synagogue after the shooting had reminded him of a similar image from the Warsaw Ghetto of man with his prayer shawl surrounded by the hate of the SS Nazis. "I pray and hope for a picture of people standing together in the street, Jews of all denominations together with people of all religious persuasions, and people of no religious faith ... I pray for a picture of a time of when we celebrate difference, a time of when difference doesn't blind us but rather it binds us and unites us."

Messages of sympathy and support received included:

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister said:

Last week, we learned of the tragic attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and my thoughts – and I am sure the thoughts of all members – are with all those who have been affected.

We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community across the world. I was reminded of the importance of tolerance, compassion and respect during my visit to Auschwitz earlier this week with schoolchildren from across Scotland. I certainly will never forget what I saw there and none of us should ever forget the horrors of genocides around the world. They are a stark reminder of the inhumanity and violence that bigotry and intolerance can cause.

Aileen Campbell, Communities Secretary in the Scottish Government:

I was proud to join, in solidarity, our Scottish Jewish community at the remembrance service for the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting. A moving ceremony led by Rabbi Rubin at Giffnock synagogue providing the space for us to unite, reflect, remember & pray.

Humza Yousaf, Justice Secretary in the Scottish Government:

Utterly awful attack in Pittsburgh today. Thoughts with the Jewish Community here, who I know will be feeling much pain at such an act of evil.

Ken Macintosh MSP, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament:

I was saddened by the terrible events in Pittsburgh, and have written to the Speakers of both Houses of the Pennsylvania state government to send the thoughts, prayers and support of the Members of the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland to the family and friends of those killed and injured. I also spoke of our shock, not only at the violence inflicted, but at the ugly antisemitism which lay behind it. The rise in antisemitism is a threat to us all, and I want to thank Giffnock Synagogue for their memorial service, and all of those who stand in solidarity with the Jewish Community against this message of hate.

Jackson Carlaw MSP, Interim Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party:

Standing in grief and solidarity with Scotland's Jewish community united in the face of this cruel and terrifying act. Across the world antisemitism remains a constant threat and a challenge which must be confronted and defeated with actions as well as words. Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected.

Monica Lennon MSP, Labour shadow Health Secretary:

The mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue was a despicable, anti-Semitic act of terror. The victims were killed whilst celebrating new life at a baby-naming ceremony. This hatred must not be allowed to divide our communities. My thoughts are with the people of Pittsburgh.

Councillor Paul O'Kane, Deputy Leader of East Renfrewshire Council:

Moving to join Jewish Community and people of all faiths and none tonight in mourning those murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Rest in peace. Powerful words from Rabbi Rubin - calling on us to unite together and stand against hatred and anti semitism.

Deputy Chief Constable Johnny Gwynne, Police Scotland:

It's a shocking attack, and watching it so closely makes it even more graphic. Shalom my friend, we live in a difficult time.

Rev George Whyte, Principal Clerk of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland:

I was very sorry to read about the events in Pittsburgh - truly dreadful. While we are all appalled and disturbed by what has happened I cannot begin to imagine how this brings increased fear to the Jewish community. Thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.

Rev Richard Frazer, Convenor, Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland:

The events in Pittsburgh were truly shocking and tragic and we are deeply saddened by such acts of hatred and violence. Our prayers for peace, unity, justice and healing become endlessly urgent and be assured that our prayers will be focused this week on the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and for all our Jewish friends in Scotland.

Dr Muhammad Adrees, Chair of the Muslim Council of Scotland:

The Muslim community is shocked to know the killing of the innocent Jewish community worshippers in the Synagogue USA. Muslim Council of Scotland is deeply saddened and has planned to visit the Giffnock Synagogue to share the grief of our Jewish community.

Maureen Sier, Director of Interfaith Scotland:

As Director of Interfaith Scotland I was honoured to stand in solidarity with the Jewish Community after the terrible atrocity in Pittsburgh. It was deeply moving to attend the Memorial in Giffnock and see such a diversity of faith communities and friends united in sorrow. The good relations between communities that has been built over many years has etched into our hearts the truth that 'an attack on one is an attack on all'. Our thoughts continue to be with the Jewish Community of Pittsburgh as they try to re-build their lives after such a tragic Antisemitic attack. Dr. Maureen Sier, Director, Interfaith Scotland

Iain Stewart, Executive Director, Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association:

I am writing to you to express our deep sorrow and sympathy for the tragic killing of eleven members of the 'Tree of Life' Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The attack on the Pittsburgh Synagogue is a stark reminder of where antisemitism can lead. Scotland has long and historic proud links with its Jewish communities and we hope that the rise in antisemitism and the events of Pittsburgh have not led to Jewish people feeling less safe or welcome here. On the contrary, we hope that by working more closely together we can help to create a society which replaces fear of the 'other' with acceptance and love, equality and understanding and where there is no space for extremist ideologies to grow.

Rami Ousta, Chief Executive of BEMIS:

Antisemitism is an evil affecting not only the Jewish community but affecting us all and our humanity. Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to the families of the victims and to the Jewish community in Scotland and worldwide.

BEMIS has always stressed that hate crime cannot be ignored, and that there is a need for a collaborative and committed decisiveness to fight this malicious virus. Antisemitism is not fiction and cannot be ignored; it is there and we should not hide from pointing it out and fighting it no matter where and what form it might take. This tragedy should be a reminder for us all how antisemitism is criminal and immoral, and let the Tree of Life synagogue / L'Simcha Congregation symbolise a new hope for us, as human beings, becoming united with full of love for each other always and always.

Two motions were also tabled in the Scottish Parliament:

S5M-14523 Alasdair Allan, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scottish National Party: Condemning Attack on Pittsburgh Synagogue – That the Parliament condemns the attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue on 27 October 2018, in which 11 Jewish worshippers were killed; expresses its sincerest condolences to the Pittsburgh and American Jewish communities, and reaffirms its absolute dedication to supporting the Scottish Government's efforts to eliminate antisemitism in Scotland.
Supported by: John Mason, Jeremy Balfour, Edward Mountain, Richard Lyle, Stewart Stevenson, Kenneth Gibson, Bill Kidd, Stuart McMillan, Margaret Mitchell, Sandra White, Patrick Harvie, David Torrance, Iain Gray, Ruth Maguire, Pauline McNeill, Jenny Gilruth, Liam Kerr, Jackie Baillie, Fulton MacGregor, Angela Constance, Tavish Scott, Johann Lamont, Neil Findlay, Gordon MacDonald, Maureen Watt, Tom Arthur, Gillian Martin, Neil Bibby, Gil Paterson, John Finnie


S5M-14524 Jackson Carlaw, Eastwood, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party: The Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue, Pittsburgh – That the Parliament remembers the lives of Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil and David Rosenthal, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Waz and Irving Younger; notes that their lives were cut short by an act of terror on 27 October 2018 at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue, which left six others wounded; unequivocally condemns the virulent antisemitism that led to this atrocity; calls on politicians from all parties, and society as a whole, to speak up and challenge the scourge of antisemitism, and notes the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council's communal service for the community on 30 October 2018 to allow everyone to come together in reflection and prayer and show solidarity with the Pittsburgh community.
Supported by: Liz Smith, Maurice Corry, Donald Cameron, Jamie Greene, Tom Mason, Alexander Stewart, Miles Briggs, Margaret Mitchell, Bill Kidd, Annie Wells, Alison Harris, Peter Chapman, Alasdair Allan, John Mason, Stewart Stevenson, Kenneth Gibson, Jeremy Balfour, Michelle Ballantyne, Alexander Burnett, Murdo Fraser, Richard Lyle, Bob Doris, Pauline McNeill, Johann Lamont, Maureen Watt, Tom Arthur, Sandra White, Gil Paterson


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