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Overflow Crowds Pack Dayton Vigil To Honor Pittsburgh Synagogue Mass Shooting Victims

A memorial service Tuesday night to remember the victims of last weekend’s deadly Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting drew large crowds. Around 1,300 people attended the vigil at Temple Israel in Dayton. Several hundred more people participated live on Facebook. 

During the service, attendees lit candles, sang, and read aloud the names of those murdered. 

The gathering was organized in part by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton.

Federation CEO Kathy Gardner helped to lead the memorial service.

"We know that this terrible incident is resonating with all people because they feel, if it's done to others it’s done to them,” she says. 

Gardner says it’s important for people to mourn together after tragic events. 

“I just had a gentleman come up to me who said, wow, I came in here with so much anger and so much hatred, and I’m leaving with a heart filled with hope. So, I think we were able to give people the time and space and words that they needed to grieve, because you have to grieve and you have to have hope,” she says.  

Last Saturday’s attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue left 11 people dead. Six others were injured, including four police officers.

Prosecutors have charged suspected killer 46-year-old Robert Bowers in the mass shooting.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton announced the Dayton vigil in a statement after the attack.

A post on the federation's Facebook page reads:  

"The horrific shooting that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh this past Saturday has shaken our worldwide Jewish community to its core. In this time of sorrow, we invite you to come together with us for a Greater Dayton Jewish Community Gathering to show support for our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh."

Marshall Weiss, editor and publisher of the Jewish Federation-published Dayton Jewish Observer, says the memorial was meant, "to affirm in our community that we will not stand for hate. This is not our way. As a society we are much better than this, so it’s really a combination of a memorial service and a solidarity event," he says.

"This is an unprecedented act of anti-Semitism in America against the Jewish community. An attack on any group, religious, ethic, cultural, national, is an attack on anyone.”

Weiss says many Dayton Jewish organizations have received an outpouring of support since the shooting.

He says Miami Valley groups are also coordinating with each other and with law enforcement to reevaluate their current security measures.

A spokesperson for the Dayton Police Department says the department is not aware of an uptick in threats directed to Dayton Jewish groups since the attack.

She says officers regularly offer so-called "run, hide, fight' active-shooter training, and building-security evaluations, to any groups that request it.    

Temple Israel officials say they've completed the training and evaluation. 

The memorial service was organized in coordination with:

Beth Abraham Synagogue, Beth Jacob Congregation, Temple Beth Or, Temple Israel, Chabad of Greater Dayton, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton and its Agencies.

fund has been set up to collect donations for the families of the victims. Information about how to donate can be found at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding America initiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.