Shabbat Solidarity

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Rabbi Michael Schwartz lights the last candle in honor of the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting at the interfaith vigil held at MJCS on Friday evening.

An outpouring of solidarity was on display at the Malibu Jewish Community Center & Synagogue (MJCS) Friday night. Those in attendance said they wouldn’t have it any other way in Malibu, where no matter your religion, everyone looks out for one another.

On the first Jewish Sabbath since a horrific mass killing at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn., leaders and representatives of Malibu’s religious institutions and fellowships joined with their Jewish neighbors to participate in an interfaith service and offer support. Rabbi Michael Schwartz of MJCS called the evening “an opportunity to reclaim a peaceful Sabbath.”

Under heavy security following last week’s attack in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead and seven injured, more than 150 people came to grieve those lost and offer prayers and words of peace and hope to the Malibu Jewish community and to all faiths—many saying “we are in this together.”

Captain Joshua Thai of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station offered, “Right away, we took action. We will do everything we can to make sure the community is safe. It’s a tragic event, what happened, but I also think it’s an opportunity for all faith to come together and bring peace.”

Gunjan Bagla, representing the Indian American community in Malibu, a diverse interfaith group including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and “not an insignificant number of Jews,” offered a prayer of unity and hope.

“I think it’s very important for all of us to state that we are for love and hope and not for hatred,” Bagla said. “I think it’s important for every community to speak out at this time. The events of the last week were horrible and if we don’t speak, more of this will happen. It’s important for us to stand together and stand strong.”

Deacon Paul Elder of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church also spoke at the event.

“The God that I believe—who is not a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu or any other religion—I ask that God’s blessing on our dearly departed brothers and sisters,” Elder said. “May they rest in peace and rise in glory. I ask that God enter the hearts of those people who hate us that they may be blessed—that they may return and recognize that we all are the same—that we are one people and there should be no hatred within us.”

Preaching Minister of the Universal Church of Christ at Pepperdine University Al Sturgeon greeted those assembled.

“I bring our love and peace,” Sturgeon said. “We stand arm-and-arm with you—with everyone here in the Malibu community.” Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., he said, “We all come here on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. It’s only in darkness that you truly see the stars.”

He added a message of hope.

“As I look at the candles and faces of the community I see hope—I see love,” the minister said. “Tonight, I share a blessing on our community and solidarity as one.”

“We denounce anti-Semitism and religious intolerance,” declared Pastor Greg Hughes of Malibu Presbyterian Church. “There’s no place for that in our world. We are a community that plays together and lives together, and as I look around I see my neighbors and friends … my heart breaks for the senseless violence and hatred that you can see around the world that seems to be building up. At our church, we pledge to fight against that and show love, kindness and generosity to others.” Hughes reminded attendees at the interfaith service that MJCS “showed that to us.” In 2007, Malibu Presbyterian burned to the ground and its preschool relocated to MJCS. “My kids who are in high school graduated here from preschool and we celebrated that together. My heart is with you and I stand with you.” Hughes said he looked forward to partnering with MJCS on future projects.

“Love can win over hate,” were the words from Senior Pastor Brian La Spada of Calvary Chapel in Malibu.

Malibu City Council Member Laura Rosenthal said, “We’re a small town. We take care of each other in times of injustice, in times of catastrophe, in times of pain and hurt, and in times of love.”

Schwartz, who organized the evening along with Cantor Marcelo Gindlin, said congregations across the country also celebrated solidarity Shabbats.

“Community means looking out for one another,” the rabbi said. “The support and concern from everyone in the community and its leaders shows we have shared values. All of us coming here tonight is a call for peace.”