Charlie Dresdner, left, and Johnny Dresdner, the youngest children of Rabbi Sruli Dresdner of Temple Shalom in Auburn, light candles during a special Shabbat service Friday night. Besides the two Shabbat candles, 11 others were lit in memory of the congregants slain in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27. A collage of the 11 victims is shown on the video monitor in the background. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Malca Wilner, standing, talks with Sister Elizabeth, left, Lorraine Luce, center, and Sister Irene, all from Sacred Heart Church in Auburn, before a special Shabbat service at Temple Shalom in Auburn on Friday evening. The community was invited to the synagogue to remember the 11 congregants slain in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — Faith communities from around the region joined together for a special Shabbat service at Temple Shalom on Friday night to remember those slain at a Pittsburgh synagogue last weekend.
“May their souls be bound up in the bonds of life,” Rabbi Sruli Dresdner of Temple Shalom said. “May they rest in peace, and may their memory ever be a blessing for which we respond,” he told the packed congregation of about 130 people who came to express solidarity with the local Jewish community.
During the service, 11 candles were lit in memory of those gunned down at Tree of Life synagogue Oct. 27.
“We all belong, we’re all here on Earth, we’re all brothers and sisters, and we care about each other, Lorraine Luce of Sacred Heart Church in Auburn said. “It saddened us when those people were killed … there should be more love in the world.”
Interfaith leaders from around the area were invited to participate in the service — from Muslim representatives to Unitarian Universalists, all offering hymns and readings of healing from their respective faiths.
“About 35 years ago, there was a tragic event in the town, and an historic church building caught on fire,” the Rev. Stephen Carnahan of High Street Congregational Church in Auburn said. “Many of you may remember the old building — this was a building in which children were baptized and funerals were held in.
“It was a traumatic time for our congregation, and this congregation saw that,” he said. “We were invited to worship in your space, and we worshiped here for two years.”
Joy, a component of Shabbat, was invoked as a band played and a group wove around the congregation to clapping and worshippers praying.
But pain and sadness were present, too, as Dresdner expressed his sorrow at the recent killings.
“Every century there have been many opportunities to remind ourselves how we bury our martyrs,” he said. ‘Today we have a new set of 11 martyrs, last week, on American soil, in a place where we felt safe.”
Dresdner expressed concern at the changing cultural climate and how easily high-capacity weapons are available for purchase.
“We need to be cautious, we’re living in a different time,” the rabbi said. “We’re living in a time where people are unhappy, isolated, angry and seem to find validation in hate groups, internet chat rooms and sites, that proffer conspiracy theories, stoke up hatred and rage and incite violence.”
The service circled back to themes of hope and healing.
“Let’s remember that the overwhelming majority of people we encounter love, respect and support who we are as demonstrated here tonight,” Dresdner said. “There are so many people for us to connect with and work together with to make our community a safer place. A place where hate is not tolerated anymore. Let us pray this is the last time we have to gather like this.”
Dresdner’s wife, Lisa Mayer Dresdner, a musician, said her family and place of worship have been overwhelmed by the support offered to them.
“I have to say I didn’t think the community would think of us this way,” she said. “When the calls and emails from the community started coming in to Rabbi Sruli — it’s extraordinary.
“I’m really happy I moved to Maine,” she said. “This is why. It’s full of the kindest people, people are interested in what we do, people are open, friendly, and loving.”
Lisa Dresdner said the community coming together through the pain would prove an important step in healing.
“This was a good step forward tonight,” she said. “I would love to see us getting together not at sad times. Let’s get together at joyous occasions, too.”