Synagogues across the United States are bracing themselves for big crowds this coming Shabbat with the launch of a national campaign that urges Americans – Jews and non-Jews alike – to fill the pews over the weekend and demonstrate their resilience, in this way, to acts of terror.
Eleven worshippers, most of them elderly, were killed when a gunman, who appears to have been a Nazi sympathizer, burst into a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday morning, spraying them with bullets.
The #ShowUpForShabbat campaign was initiated by the American Jewish Committee and is intended, according to the organizers, “for both Jews and non-Jews, regular shul-goers and those who have never set foot in a synagogue in their lives.”
“Our response to those trying to disrupt Jewish life in America or anywhere else is to demonstrate that Jews will continue to celebrate their Jewishness openly and proudly,” said Avi Mayer, assistant executive director of the AJC. “When they go low, we go to shul.”
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Hundreds of synagogues, he said, had already notified the AJC that they intended to participate in the event, and the AJC was hopeful that the umbrella organizations of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist movements would encourage their member synagogues to join.
The campaign is aimed at filling up synagogues for Friday night and Saturday morning services but participants are also being encouraged, Mayer said, to stop in at their local Jewish community center and Moishe House to express solidarity.
On Monday, representatives of AJC’s 22 offices across the United States were busy reaching out to communal partners and local government officials and asking them to participate in the campaign. The organization’s 11 international offices are also working with partners in over 35 Jewish communities around the globe to launch similar initiatives locally.
Participating synagogues are being asked to welcome the anticipated influx of participants at their Shabbat services with explanatory programming, and rabbis are being asked to dedicate their sermons to discussing the initiative.
Responding to the campaign on Twitter, Avigayil Benstein, president of the World Union of Jewish Students wrote: “Normally I spend Shabbat morning very much asleep. This week, in support of the Jewish community of #Pittsburgh, I'm going to get out of bed and #ShowUpForShabbat. Who's with me?”
Dan Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, tweeted: “I would be in shul anyway, but we will definitely #ShowUpForShabbat this week.”