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More than 2,000 attend service of solidarity at Falls Church temple

Thousands attend service of unity in Fairfax in remembrance of synagogue shooting victims

Tuesday marked another night of remembrance and unity in the aftermath of a deadly attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

More than 2,000 people showed up for a service of strength and solidarity at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church.

“The response has to be a unified response from every corner of Northern Virginia and America,” said Senior Rabbi Amy Schwartzman. “And if you look at the people walking through the door right now, it’s everything we hoped for. Everyone has come to be with us. We are grateful.”

Schwartzman said she was leading services on Saturday morning when the shooting in Pittsburgh took place.

“As I came out of this very sanctuary behind me, I was taken aside to be told about the tragedy unfolding in Pittsburgh,” she said. “And truly my heart just plummeted.”

So when people from all faiths, all ages, and all walks of life showed up for Tuesday’s service, she says it served as a comfort for the Jewish community.

Members of the congregation welcomed every person that walked through the doors with a smile and a warm greeting.

“These crimes are crimes against the America we love. These are attacks on us all,” Schwartzman told the crowd. “We come here to condemn the rise of hatred and racism and bigotry.”

The Fairfax County Chief of Police was among those who took part in Tuesday’s service, lighting a candle in honor of the lives lost in Pittsburgh.

There was also a heightened security presence at the temple, including a bag check at the door.

Schwartzman said it’s a careful balance right now between making sure people feel safe, while also making sure the temple remains a place where everyone feels welcome.

“We believe in audacious hospitality. How do we do that if we have someone at the door guarding this building? It’s a huge challenge,” she said.

During Tuesday’s service, she also spoke about the fear being felt among members of the her congregation and said they cannot hunker down or close their doors.

“Going out there and serving people, that’s how we change minds and hearts. It’s what we need to do. And it’s what our Jewish tradition calls us to do.”

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