Austin Community Unites in Solidarity for Poway Chabad
Community members gather April 29 at the Chabad Center in North Austin to mourn victims and show support for the Poway community. Credit: Mendel Hertz
By Wendy Goodman
Hundreds gathered April 29 at the Chabad Center in North Austin to mourn victims and show support for the Poway community.
Two days before, a gunman open fired inside the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California, near San Diego, killing a 60-year-old woman and injuring three others—including an 8-year-old girl, a 34-year-old man and the synagogue’s rabbi—while they were attending Shabbat services on the last day of Passover.
The shooting occurred exactly six months after the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 people were killed and six others were injured. Just six months ago, the Austin community came together for one of the largest gatherings on the Dell Jewish Community Campus for a vigil of hope and solidarity for Tree of Life, only to gather once again for Poway.
Chabad of Austin’s Rabbi Yosef and Rochel Levertov hosted the Poway vigil, with local clergy, Jewish community partners and an elected official in attendance.
Diane Ginsburg, University of Texas associate dean of health care partnerships; Rabbi Daniel Septimus, Shalom Austin CEO; Maram Museitif, public health professional; Alison Alter, District 10 Austin City Council member; Rabbi Yosef Levertov, Chabad of Austin; and Ariela Johnson, Chabad of Austin, were among the speakers.
Levertov greeted the audience with inspiring remarks about the importance of unity and togetherness before holding a moment of silence.
“We are here, just to be here together, to commemorate, and to celebrate the miracle of those that survived,” he said.
Septimus addressed the crowd with a personal story and encouragement to find light in the darkness of hate and violence.
“To be here in solidarity with you means a lot. The outpouring of community we have here tonight, we have people from all different backgrounds—Jewish backgrounds, non-Jewish backgrounds. I hope that shows the light that really is in our lives at this moment. This horrific incident hit close to home.”
Septimus continued, “My wife’s family is from San Diego and many people in her family and best friends are involved in the leadership in the community there. But as we learned six months ago in Pittsburgh, it doesn’t matter if we know someone or not, it affects all of us as a community.”
“In these times of challenge and times of what may be considered darkness, as Rabbi Levertov so eloquently put it, we have to find the light and amplify the light,” Septimus added.
Alter spoke about her role as an elected official as well as a fellow community member.
“We as leaders and elected officials have a responsibility with our words and our deeds to lead by example and to show that there can be light, and to work hard to make people feel like they have a place in this world, that they are not wanting and that they have a place in community,” she said.
“I want to thank so many of you that work hard to make Austin a welcoming place. I think it’s overwhelming sometimes to look at the events happening all over the world, not just in our synagogues, to forget that we have agency and that we can do things in Austin. I’m also here as a member of the community, and a member of Congregation Beth Israel, and I’m here as a mother,” Alter said.
Levertov closed the evening with candle lighting and a positive message of peace and growth.
He said, “You really touched our hearts and we will continue to grow. We should all only have happiness and peace and growth.” ■