A crowd of about 100 people gathered at the corner of McDonnell and George streets Monday evening, a sense of sadness hanging over them as 11 names were read aloud.
People were there to attend a vigil commemorating those murdered on Saturday when a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“There is shock and sadness, and we never expect things like this to happen, but as I was saying earlier, it seems to be happening more and more to minority houses of worship right across North America,” said Larry Gillman, president of Peterborough’s Beth Israel synagogue and one of the speakers at Monday’s event.
Many in the crowd carried signs calling for an end to hate and appealing for peace. Gillman said it was important to show strength and unity after what happened.
“Peterborough has a great track record of staying together through tragedies,” Gillman said. “We look at what happened with the mosque and the response all across Peterborough.”
Monday’s event was organized by the Peterborough Peace Council. Organizers say they wanted to give people a space to grieve and share in the aftermath of the tragedy.
“It’s really hard to experience that feeling on your own,” said Ziysah von Bieberstein. “And whether you’re Jewish or have friends who are Jewish or are just a human being, to be able to come together to process that news is really valuable to people.”
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For Carolyn Kay, a German history professor at Trent University, the weekend’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue was a grim reminder of where hatred can lead.
“It’s definitely a warning sign that people are becoming isolated and entrenched,” Kay said.
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Speakers at the vigil talked about the hate crimes that have happened across North America, including the mass shooting that happened at a church in South Carolina and the arson at a Peterborough mosque in 2015. Several said acts of hate cannot be met with complacency.
“Because they can lead to violence, they can lead to war, they can lead to genocide. We know from history that this has been an example in the past,” Kay said.