‘We say never again’: Vigil honors victims of mass shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue

CHICAGO — Hundreds of people from all religions and backgrounds came together in Federal Plaza Sunday night to show unity and speak out against hate after  eleven people were killed in a mass shooting inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

For Michelle Dash and her friend Katie Ross, the tragedy hits especially close to home.

"Unfortunately, we do know some of the victims; it's a very small Jewish community in Pittsburg, everybody knows everyone," Dash said at the vigil Sunday.

Ross said she grew up in Squirrel Hill, just a block away from the synagogue where the shooting took place.

"It's really terrible, even at the same time it shows how our community can come out and come together," Ross said.

Earlier in Union Station, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was brought to tears when speaking out about the tragedy.

"Life is fragile, and in moments of joy you should remember life is fleeting and is fragile," Emanuel said.

On a dark and dreary night, the lights of mourners shined on, bringing unity in the wake of an unspeakable crime.

"We say 'never again,' and we must live to that promise," said Alison Pure-Slovin, Midwest Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "We must stop the hate and our thoughts and prayers are with them and we will stay stronger together."

Earlier in the day Sunday, members of a Jewish group targeted by the shooter on social media said violence will not deter their mission.

"When a terrorist attacks refugees and calls them hostile invaders, when an organization meant to support refugees is targeted, we gather and say, 'not on our watch,'" Rabbi David Russo said.

According to the FBI,  accused synagogue shooter Robert Bowers posted about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) on his social media accounts, saying: "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered."

Members of HIAS, together with delegates from congregations across Chicago, policy experts and elected officials, gathered at a North Side synagogue Sunday morning for the Chicago Jews for Refugees Assembly.

"HIAS sends all our hope and strength to the Pittsburgh Jewish community," said Isabel Burton, HIAS. "We should use this to advocate for what we believe in and being a welcoming safe country for those who need it."

Another event planned for noon on Monday at the DuSable Museum will bring the Jewish and African American communities together for a show of unity in the face of tragedy.