As a Saturday sun slipped away behind the trees, a large group of Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, the non-religious, professors, students, politicians and many others gathered together at Beth Shalom, the Jewish Community of East Alabama.
They prayed together, and they mourned together.
Religious and secular leaders gave messages of hope, diversity and love. As one community, they held candles with one another and pushed back the darkness.
In response to the murder of 11 Jewish-Americans in Pittsburg two weeks ago, Beth Shalom held a vigil Nov. 3 at their synagogue.
Michael Friedman, the president of the congregation at Beth Shalom and a retired chemistry professor at Auburn University, together with other members of the congregation organized a night where people could remember and mourn the victims.
"It is a getting-together for people who want to pay homage to those who died," Friedman said. "We thought it would be proper, and so we are going to do it."
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On the night of the vigil, cars lined the streets around the synagogue as there was nowhere else for the over 200 attendees to park.
The service opened with Turia Stark Williams and Miriam Wyman, two young women in the congregation, singing "Oseh Shalom," a common prayer asking for peace.
The stoop of a side door of the synagogue was used as a makeshift stage for the speakers.
"As a member of this congregation, I am honored, I am thrilled and I am humbled by all of the people who have come out to join us," Friedman said.
He then introduced Phillip Ensler, the president of the Jewish Federation of Central Alabama, who called on the people in the crowd to recognize and support the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, one of the targets of the shooter in Pittsburg.
"We know the shooter harbored a strong hatred for this society," Ensler said ."But we have to remember the words of Dr. King, 'We must learn to live together as brothers or perish as fools.'"
The civil rights era was a common theme that night as many speakers pointed out similarities between the 1960s and today.
Wayne Flynt, a professor emeritus at Auburn and a Baptist preacher, compared the shooting in Pittsburg to the Birmingham church bombing in 1963 in that both were incited by hateful rhetoric prior to the terrorist action.
"Police Chief Bull Conner spoke to 4,000 whites on Labor Day, a week before the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church," Flynt said, noting that Conner used racial epithets to incite the crowd.
His argument was that words have power.
"This is the reason we must learn to use words carefully, lovingly, thoughtfully, concerned for how they are received and how they are used by others," Flynt said.
Richard Penaskovic, another professor emeritus at Auburn, called on the congregation to fall back on their faith.
"We humans must continue to put our hope in Yahweh, who is near his chosen people when they need help to sort out the terrible things that happen in this world," Penaskovic said. "It's not dangerous to hang on by a mere thread if Adonai (my Lord) is on the other side holding fast to that thread."
Following the speakers, the names of the 11 victims were read as individual candles were lit by leaders of numerous religious organizations.
The Mourner's Kaddish, a Jewish prayer, which is said in memory of deceased person, was recited in both Hebrew and English.
"May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel," the community spoke into the night.
Williams and Wyman sung a song of healing, and the candles began to burn low.
Mayor Ron Anders spoke last about how the community can move forward.
Anders brought up two subjects: differences and respect
"There's nothing wrong with being different," Anders said. "Being different makes us stronger. Different should be celebrated, and different is good."
Anders said by having more religious beliefs among its citizens, Auburn has become a more outstanding community, not more fragmented.
"With that as a backdrop, I will ask the City Council on Tuesday night to initiate a diversity task force for the first time in our municipal history," Anders said.
According to Anders, the purpose of this task force will be "to study, to contemplate, to have public discussions and to make sure we do not have hole in our community where people are being forgotten, mistreated and marginalized."
Turning to his second subject, Anders challenged the community to reject assumptions about other people and to give people an opportunity to display their worth and display their true attitudes.
"If we treat one another with extreme worth, I truly believe that Auburn can be a better place," Anders said.
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