The impact of the Saturday shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was felt far and wide, but members of South Jersey's Jewish community were relieved to learn that a former Ventnor cantor survived.
South Jersey congregants waited to hear word of Myers, who was photographed coming out of the synagogue Saturday wearing his prayer shawl and holding his head.
Myers’ son Aaron said he and his family were doing OK despite being shaken up, and that his father would be busy providing comfort, leadership and funeral services to his congregation and the community.
“There’s a challenge of helping and comforting mourners as well as an entire community,” said Rabbi Jonathan Kremer, of Shirat Hayam synagogue. “(Myers) had a reputation here for bedside manner. Whether he visited the sick and ill in a hospital or at home, his compassion showed through, and he was really supportive.
“Given the number of congregants who were killed or hurt, I wish Rabbi Myers the strength to maintain that compassion.”
The Shirat Hayam synagogue will hold a Gathering of Solidarity event beginning at 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28 to coincide with a vigil being held by the Pittsburgh Jewish community.
The local interfaith and community gathering, open to all, will take place at 700 North Swarthmore Avenue and there will be security present, organizers said.
South Jersey faith leaders said they will not be intimidated by these acts of violence.
“We’re having a gathering this evening to invite people, as we’ve had to do for other faiths all too often over the last few years, to show strength and faith,” Kremer said. “We won’t be daunted, but concerned. We refuse to be constrained by threats of violence.”
In July, Myers penned an essay titled "We Deserve Better" in which he touched on the rapid pace of the news cycle and how it affects public issues.
"Despite continuous calls for sensible gun control and mental health care, our elected leaders in Washington knew that it could fade away at any time. Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the mid-term elections, I fear that the status quo will remain unchanged and school shootings will resume," he wrote.
Rabbi Cheryl Klein was also identified by the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties as a Pittsburgh faith leader who had connections to both the Tree of Life Synagogue and the South Jersey area.
Cantor Ralph Goren, of Beth El Synagogue in Margate, said Klein is a regular member of his congregation when she spends time at her second home in Margate.
Klein is linked to Congregation Dor Hadash, which regularly holds activities at the Tree of Life Synagogue, according to the congregation’s website.
Goren had just seen the rabbi this week and said she was not in Pittsburgh at the time of the shooting but would be working with other faith leaders to help the community heal.
In a letter to congregants, Goren encouraged people in the South Jersey Jewish community to join and support the vigil in Ventnor tonight.
“We are all in shock and appalled by the events in Pittsburgh. We are sad for the families of the victims and for the injured,” he wrote. “May the memories of those we lost be for a blessing and may Hashem support the rabbis of Pittsburgh in their efforts to heal the community.”