Overflow Crowd Fills Temple Rodef Shalom After 11 Slain in Pittsburgh

(Photo: Shaun van Steyn)

Overflow spaces were overflowing throughout Falls Church’s large Temple Rodef Shalom Tuesday night, much less the main sanctuary, in response to last Saturday’s hate-inspired deadliest attack on Jewish people in the history of the U.S. in Pittsburgh when 11 worshipers at a temple there were gunned down by yet another overtly antisemitic white male. The mood in Tuesday’s service was one of a profound sadness, on the one hand, and solidarity of persons from all walks of life in this region, on the other. It was considered futile to estimate the crowd, but some put it at above 3,000.

The temple’s chief rabbi, Rabbi Amy Schwartzman, led a moving service for an amazing array of diversity and compassion, led by the region’s most influential political and religious leaders. There was U.S. Senator Mark Warner, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, Fairfax County board chair Sharon Bulova and board member John Foust, State Del. Marcus Simon and state legislative colleagues Adam Ebbin, Mark Levine and Eileen Filler-Corn, there were Falls Church City Council members Letty Hardi and Marybeth Connelly.

There were a powerful array of religious and moral leaders, representing Sikhs, Lutherans, Muslims, Unitarians, Presbyterians, Episcopalians (including the Rev. John Ohmer, rector of the Falls Church Episcopal Church), Baptists, Mormons, Baha’is, Moms Demand Action and the Anti-Defamation League.

The temple describes itself as “a thriving, vibrant, inclusive, diverse, tolerant, sacred, loving Reform Jewish congregation with 5,692 members, two-thirds being from Arlington, McLean or Falls Church.