PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Adam Greenman says he felt “shock, sadness, fear and anger” on Saturday as he heard the news of a devastating mass murder of eleven people at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Greenman, the president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, said he also felt a sense of resolve.
“When events like this happen, when tragedies like this happen it often seems like the perpetrators are trying to tear us further apart,” Greenman said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “And it always warms my heart that what they actually do is further unite us and further bring us together.”
The Jewish Alliance organized a vigil for prayer and action on Elmgrove Avenue in Providence Monday evening. Hundreds attended the event in solidarity of the victims.
Officials in Pennsylvania said the alleged gunman, Robert Bowers, shouted anti-Semitic statements as he opened fire on the congregants at Shabbat services Saturday morning. He is charged with dozens of criminal counts including murder and hate crimes.
“Angry, but not surprised,” Greenman said of Bowers’ anti-Semitism. “It’s something that as a community we know has always been just under the surface, and unfortunately more and more seems to be coming to the surface.”
He said he isn’t sure if anti-Semitism itself is on the rise, or if people who already felt animus towards Jewish people are now more emboldened, as they can anonymously spread hate on social media.
The Anti-Defamation League says there is a rise in both anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic harassment online, and said the massacre in Pittsburgh is believed to be the deadliest act of violence against Jews in American history.
Spokespeople for the Rhode Island State Police and Providence Police both said the law enforcement agencies would be stepping up patrols at synagogues, especially during services.
Greenman said there has been an outpouring of support for the Jewish community in Rhode Island from both law enforcement and other faith groups.
Many American Jewish families in the United States are here because their families escaped persecution by the Nazis in Europe. Greenman reflected on that history, as just last week he says he visited the Holocaust memorial in Israel.
“You see the toll of Nazi destruction and what is arguably one of the greatest human tragedies in human history. And what it made me think about was how almost 75 years later we’re still here,” he said. “This tragedy is not something that’s going to stop us from continuing to celebrate who we are, celebrating not just who we are as Jews but who we are as Americans, and being part of this beautiful fabric that is our country.”