In the middle of his rendition of “Oseh Shalom,” Rabbi Zev Wineberg paused. “It’s OK to be joyous,” he told his audience.
Wineberg, rabbi of the Chabad of Long Island City, organized a vigil on April 30 in Court Square Park to show solidarity with Chabad Poway after a gunman opened fire in the San Diego synagogue on Sunday, killing a congregant and wounding the rabbi and two others in an anti-Semitic attack.
Faced with the second American synagogue shooting in the span of six months and an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents across Europe, Wineberg told those gathered that the proper response is to resist giving into fear and express Jewish pride more openly.
“There’s no solution to eradicate anti-Semitism. The only solution is to be more Semitic. If there’s more pride in Judaism, then there will be less of these things, please God,” said Wineberg.
During the vigil, Wineberg eulogized the life of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, the woman who leaped in front of Yisroel Goldstein, the Rabbi of Chabad Poway, to save his life.
“It seems that she died the way she lived, doing and act of hasidim, doing an act of kindness for another individual. Putting her life before other people’s lives to do one last kind thing,” Wineberg said.
Participants lit candles in front of the Queens County Court House and listened to speeches from Wineberg; Stephen Weiner, the president of Young Israel of Sunnyside and Naomi Wolfensohn, president of Ahavas Israel in Greenpoint.
Wolfensohn took the opportunity to speak against the idea that the shooting was an attack on the Chabad sect of Judaism.
“An attack on Chabad is not an attack on one group of Jews. It’s an attack on all Jews,” she said. “It’s also an act of terrorism against those of us who practice freedom of religion in America. And when the mosque in New Zealand was attacked we went to the Greenpoint Islamic Center in solidarity with them just as after Pittsburgh they came and spent an entire shabbat with us.”
Wineberg echoed this sentiment, declaring the importance of publicly sharing religious pride.
“We will not cower. We will not hide. We will declare here in a public place in front of the court of justice of this great country that Am Yisrael Chai we are alive and well and here to stay,” he said.