The throng started pouring into a Philadelphia temple well before the 5 p.m. start of Sunday's interfaith solidarity vigil for the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims, and it just kept coming — politicians and babies in strollers, ministers and rabbis, filling every seat and spilling into the lobby, united in their grief and the desire to stand up to hate.

"Our world is more broken now than at any time in my life," U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Northeast Philadelphia Democrat, told the audience that packed the rafters at Temple Rodeph Shalom on North Broad Street, but he called for those who are in mourning to take action.

It was standing room only as Attorney General Josh Shapiro spoke.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
It was standing room only as Attorney General Josh Shapiro spoke.

"Elie Wiesel reminded us," Boyle said, referring to the late Holocaust researcher and writer, "that if we stay neutral we are not helping the victims, only the victimizers. Let's move forward together, in order to repair the world."

Despite little notice, the Interfaith Vigil of Solidarity and Hope — sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia — drew hundreds still in a state of shock over Saturday's massacre by an armed gunman who killed 11 people and wounded six in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue.

More than a dozen speakers from several faiths, as well as police brass, politicians and representatives from City Hall, addressed the crowd.

"There's a lot we don't know," said state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who spent much of Saturday with authorities in Pittsburgh at the site of the shooting. "What we do know is that now more than ever, our leaders must speak and act with moral clarity." The crowd murmured in approval.

Clifford Pearlman of Center City was among the hundreds attending an Interfaith Vigil of Solidarity and Hope at Rodeph Shalom in North Philadelphia.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Clifford Pearlman of Center City was among the hundreds attending an Interfaith Vigil of Solidarity and Hope at Rodeph Shalom in North Philadelphia.

The tone was largely spiritual. The Rev. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church in Society Hill — invoking the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 — proclaimed, "We don't need Tiki torches; we just need small candles so that everybody can see that we're standing together, to let our light shine."

The politics of gun control or refugees crept into a few speeches. "More than love, more than showing civility, I'm going to ask you to rely on facts," said Cathryn Miller-Wilson, executive director of Pennsylvania HIAS, the refugee aid group specifically cited by the killer, drawing applause. "There are no refugees who've been admitted to this country who've committed a terrorist act."

Attendees said they came to make a statement that a civil society will not tolerate what happened in Pittsburgh.

"I came tonight to let the world know that this is not the new normal," state Rep. Joanna McClinton, a West Philadelphia Democrat, said before speaking to the crowd. "We're not going to stand back and let this happen."

She arrived with a friend, 42-year-old Philadelphian Beth Finn — a member of the congregation and a local organizer of the Woman's March — who said she wanted to show support for her community. "Jews rally when bad things happen to us," she said. "We unite as a community. And we stand up for ourselves."

Finn also criticized President Trump's recent inflammatory rhetoric. "I don't think it's a coincidence that the president this week called himself a 'nationalist' and then all of these things happened," she said citing the other violent events in the last week, including the Florida man who targeted a number of leading Democratic politicians and donors, as well as CNN, with pipe bombs, and the Kentucky gunman who killed two black supermarket shoppers in an apparent hate crime.

Elected officials, civic leaders and clergy of all faiths hold hands and sing together at the conclusion of the vigil at Rodeph Shalom.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Elected officials, civic leaders and clergy of all faiths hold hands and sing together at the conclusion of the vigil at Rodeph Shalom.