Five months ago, local Muslims joined hundreds of Jews at Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, NY. They were gathered to mourn the 11 men and women murdered by a lone gunman as they prayed at a Pittsburgh temple during Shabbat morning services. Seven more were injured in what was the deadliest attack on American Jews in U.S. history.
Yesterday, Jews and Christians in Rochester and around the country poured into mosques to grieve for the more than 50 New Zealand children, women and men who were killed by an assault rifle on Friday as they knelt in prayer at two mosques. Fifty more were injured by a 28-year-old white supremacist who filmed his atrocities live, using a camera on his helmet.
Yesterday, singing “We Shall Overcome” and “This Land is Your Land,” the mourners, many carrying flowers and signs of support, gathered outside the Islamic Center of Rochester. Once inside, they removed their shoes and stored them in cubbies. Men were directed into the prayer hall, women upstairs. Congregants individually welcomed each guest. There were so many women and girls that some had no room to supplicate during the opening prayer.
The town supervisor, a school superintendent and religious leaders addressed the stunned and brokenhearted. Karen Elam of the Jewish Federation of Rochester had organized the interfaith ceremony, She cried as she apologized to her daughter’s generation for leaving them a world of violence and environmental devastation.
Abu Saeed Islam, council chair of the Islamic Center, noted that the New Zealand victims were praying, with their backs to the door, when the gunman began shooting. “He reloaded his weapon and shot some people again,” said Islam. “We prayer for all their families. We pray for the haters. May God guide them.”
The New Zealand shooter used the same type of assault rifle used in several U.S. massacres, according to news reports. The 28-year-old had painted names of other mass shooters on his weapons and symbols associated with Nazis and other white supremacists. The suspected gunman, who described himself as a white supremacist, emailed a copy of a manifesto to the New Zealand prime minister’s office and more than 60 other recipients shortly before the attack, according to media reports.
The assassin had painted the names of other mass murderers on his weapon and symbols associated with white supremacism. In the U.S., the number of hate groups has reached an all-time high, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which blames the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant messages for emboldening these groups.
On Sunday, Islam thanked the police for patrolling the mosque grounds. “Our congregation did not feel safe. Your presence has been comforting.”
Abbas Ahmed, a mosque board member, said that he hoped that the next time the community gathered it would be to celebrate peace and love.
“Thank you for confronting hate with love,” he added.