Local leaders are decrying hatred and calling for “respect” and “civility” in the wake of a mass murder at a Pittsburgh, Pa., synagogue Oct. 27.

Vigils and memorial services are being organized by various local synagogues and organizations.

A gunman shouting anti-Semitic slurs killed at least 11 people, and wounded more, during a service at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Congregation and was arrested by police, according to media reports.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, in a written statement, denounced anti-Semitism and hatred and said her city stands with Pittsburgh and “our Jewish brothers and sisters around the nation.”

“As a city and a nation, we are better and stronger than hate,” Bottoms said. “We will continue to work towards fostering a deeper understanding and abiding respect for one another.”

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, in a written statement, called for political “civility and tolerance” and noted such other major crimes as last year’s shooting of Republicans at a baseball practice by a left-wing activist and a recent string of mail bombs sent to noted Democrats and media outlets, allegedly by a supporter of President Trump.

“When we see people with whom we disagree or who are different as evil, we are one short step from fomenting the kinds of violence that occurred at a Congressional baseball practice, or that was transported this week via the mail or what we today witnessed,” Paul wrote. “And those of us in positions of authority must lead in restoring civility and tolerance at a time when they are in extremely short supply.”

Atlanta Police are on “heightened alert” and will “closely monitor activity” around local synagogues, according to the Mayor’s Office. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta said it is “deeply distressed and saddened” by the mass murder and is activating a security alert system that connects various Jewish institutions in the area.

The locally based Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism said the mass murder is part of a general increase in hate expression and hate crimes. “We must stand together not just as a Jewish community, but as a human community, because when one group is targeted, we are all affected,” the group said in a written statement.

The Dunwoody-based Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta said it is focused on safety.

“Our thoughts are with the Jewish community and the law enforcement officers in Pittsburgh,” the MJCCA said on social media. “As ever, our main priority is the safety and security of our members, staff and guests. We remain steadfastly committed to your safety.”

Local vigils and services

Other local upcoming vigils or services open to the public include:

  • Service and vigil at Congregation B’nai Torah, 700 Mount Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs, Oct. 29, 6:15 p.m.
  • Memorial service and vigil at Congregation Beth Shalom, 5303 Winters Chapel Road, Dunwoody, Oct. 29, 6:30 p.m.
  • Memorial service at Congregation Or Hadash, 7460 Trowbridge Road, Sandy Springs, Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m.
  • Memorial service at Ahavath Achim Synagogue, 600 Peachtree Battle Ave., Buckhead, Oct. 30, 6 p.m.
  • Memorial service hosted by Jewish Home Life Communities at two area locations, Oct. 30, 3 p.m.: Berman Commons, 2026 Womack Road, Dunwoody; and William Bremen Jewish Home, 3150 Howell Mill Road N.W., Buckhead.
  • Memorial service at Chabad Israeli Center Atlanta, 4276 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Brookhaven, Oct. 30, 7 p.m.
  • Vigil and memorial service at Congregation Ariel, 5237 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody, Oct. 31, 7 p.m.

Temple Emanu-El and Temple Sinai, both in Sandy Springs, held vigils on Oct. 28.

In a social media post, Rabbi Spike Anderson of Temple Emanu-El wrote about the difficult emotions and the need to grieve following the crimes of the “hate-soaked shooter.”

“We have been through this before, you and I, the mass shootings of schools and colleges, of movie theaters, of churches, of concerts in the park. They all hurt. Truly,” Anderson wrote. “But for us, today, this is profoundly personal.”

Buckhead’s Ahavath Achim Synagogue has 11 candles burning in memory of those killed, said spokesperson Anne Cohen. The synagogue also was scheduled to partner in an Oct. 28 memorial service and vigil hosted by Congregation Shearith Israel in the Morningside-Lenox Park area. In addition, the Tree of Life victims will be honored at a Nov. 1 musical and storytelling performance at Ahavath Achim, Mona Golabek’s “One Woman’s Journey through Music,” which is free but requires reservations; for more information, click here.

In a written statement, Ahavath Achim Rabbis Neil Sandler and Laurence Rosenthal expressed grief and anger, and noted that while hate crimes are on the rise, most people are not hateful. They also spoke in support of HIAS, a refugee assistance organization that was specifically criticized by the Tree of Life murder suspect in social media posts.

“In the Talmud, our Rabbis tell us that ‘One who destroys a single life, it is as though one has destroyed an entire world.’ Today, their words sear with burning truth,” the rabbis wrote.

The American Jewish Committee, whose Southeast regional office is in Buckhead, said it is organizing a “#ShowUpForShabbat” campaign to encourage local leaders and “communal allies” to attend synagogue services on the weekend of Nov. 2-3 as a sign of unity and lack of fear.

A post on Twitter from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms offering condolences, with an image combining the Jewish Star of David with the logo of the U.S. steel industry and the Pittsburgh Steelers football team.

Other responses from local leaders and candidates:

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

We are deeply saddened by the news of another senseless mass shooting perpetrated in the name of hate. We stand with the people of Pittsburgh and with our Jewish brothers and sisters throughout our nation, and denounce hatred and anti-Semitism, in all forms.

We also pray for the wounded first responders and remain grateful for their selfless acts of bravery. The Atlanta Police Department is on heightened alert and patrol units have been instructed to closely monitor activity around synagogues throughout the city.

As a city and a nation, we are better and stronger than hate. We will continue to work towards fostering a deeper understanding and abiding respect for one another.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul

Today’s shooting in Pittsburgh during a synagogue worship service is a despicable act. While anti-Semitism is not new, a free, diverse society such as ours can never tolerate it or any form of ethnic hatred.

When we see people with whom we disagree or who are different as evil, we are one short step from fomenting the kinds of violence that occurred at a Congressional baseball practice, or that was transported this week via the mail or what we today witnessed.

And those of us in positions of authority must lead in restoring civility and tolerance at a time when they are in extremely short supply.

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel (6th Congressional District, representing parts of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs)

Our houses of worship are our refuge. We as a nation will not accept attacks on our synagogues, our churches, our temples, or our mosques. I stand with the community of the Tree of Life Synagogue today, and united against those who espouse religious bigotry of any kind.

Lucy McBath (6th Congressional District candidate)

An attack on the Jewish community is an attack on every single person of faith in this country. I know deeply the pain this community is going through, and I refuse to accept this as normal.

Allison Padilla-Goodman, regional director, the Anti-Defamation League Southeast Region

We are devastated for the families and community in Pittsburgh. The terror and fear generated by this crime reverberate across the South, and this is the unique impact of a hate crime. The Jewish community of Atlanta is strong and has many friends, and we appreciate the outpouring of solidarity and support at this time.

Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism

Formed by a group of Dunwoody mothers last year, this group has held forums on dealing with anti-Semitism and hate, including a well-attended debut meeting at Sandy Springs’ Temple Emanu-El.

“AIAAS … is heartbroken for everyone in the Pittsburgh Jewish community and we mourn with them as we all try to process this horrendous act of hatred. And while we are devastated, we are not, and never will be, afraid. We will still  gather, pray and be part of vibrant Jewish communities, here in Atlanta and around the country.

“This attack may likely end up being the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. And it is just the latest in an increasing list of acts of hatred in our country.  According to the Anti-Defamation league, anti-Semitic incidents surged nearly 60 percent in 2017, the largest single-year increase on record. And It is not just anti-Semitism that is on the rise. It’s hate in general. We must stand together not just as a Jewish community but as a human community, because when one group is targeted, we are all affected.”

City of Brookhaven

Mayor John Ernst and the City Council issued a joint statement of solidarity with Pittsburgh on Oct. 30.

“Saturday’s events in Pittsburgh represent the largest anti-Semitic act of violence in the history of our nation,” the written statement said. “Although the tragedy took place in Pittsburgh, our own Jewish community is deeply shaken and affected by these events. The city of Brookhaven stands in unity and in sorrow with the Pittsburgh community in the aftermath of this heinous act.  All acts of violence and hate are condemned and will be dealt with all possible effort if a similar situation were to ever occur in the city of Brookhaven.”

A rabbi is expected to offer prayers at an upcoming City Council meeting and the elected officials and members of the police department are expected to tour local Jewish facilities in the near future, said Councilmember Linley Jones.

“We want to send a message to the Jewish community that the city stands behind them and against all forms of anti-Semitism,” she said.

City of Dunwoody

The city of Dunwoody posted on social media its sympathy for those killed in Pittsburgh.

State Rep. Meagan Hanson (House District 80)

My heart hurts for the members of Tree of Life synagogue and those who lost loved ones who were innocently practicing their faith, and my prayers are with them.

11 people were killed, 4 first responders and a number of others wounded; all because of one man’s apparent hate for the Jewish faith and community. His actions constitute a hate crime—and, thankfully, in Pennsylvania, have the opportunity to be prosecuted as such.

DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester

The news this week has taken a somber turn upon hearing of eleven people being killed, and six others — including four police officers — being wounded when a man opened fire inside a synagogue during Shabbat morning service in Pittsburgh. Although the investigation is ongoing, this appears to be an attack by yet another mentally disturbed and cowardly, bigoted racist individual.

It’s during these times I am reminded that we are a resilient nation; a nation that has gone through many periods of heartache and despair. Regardless of our political beliefs, no one should be silenced through the use of terror, or intolerance. As Americans, we must not allow such hatred to become the norm in our country. The events in Pittsburgh were complete and total evil. My whole heart goes out to the Jewish community in light of Saturday’s terrible tragedy.

Sam Massell, Buckhead Coalition president and former Atlanta mayor

The Jewish community in Atlanta has long been recognized for its contributions to the overall well-being of our city, and it stands tall — hand-in-hand — with persons of all faiths faulting those who would divide through hatred.

Mike Wilensky (state House District 79 candidate)

A leader calls out what it is. There is clear right and wrong. This is wrong. These are terrorists. These are hate crimes. This will not stand. We must have leaders who are not silent and allow this to continue. Enough is enough.

Editor’s Note: This post will be updated as reactions come in.

This story has been updated to remove the name of a local synagogue and the locations of its armed security guards over security concerns.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.