Roughly 700 people gathered for a citywide vigil in Fort Worth Thursday night to remember the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.
"Having murder enter the holy space of a synagogue is a step forward or a step upward in the level of hate," Rabbi Andrew Bloom of Fort Worth's Congregation Ahavath Sholom Synagogue said. "That is something we need to stop."
Congregation Ahavath Sholom hosted the service, bringing together faith leaders from several religious backgrounds, city officials and citizens with a message of peace and unity.
"We are coming together as a community in order to try to bring about peace in our city and in our society," Bloom said. "We are here not only to pray, we are here not only to remember, but we are here to unite."
So many people attended the service that it turned into a standing room only event, with people lining the walls of the synagogue.
"Wow, if you haven't turned around, I encourage you to do so," Fort Worth Assistant Police Chief Ed Kraus told the crowd. "This is why I'm proud to live in Fort Worth and be a Fort Worth police officer."
The hundreds of mourners sought a shared peace after a week of deep tragedy.
"This is important to feel this sense of community here in Fort Worth because this is a really hard time," said one attendee, Suki John.
Jacque Lambiase added, "I love the fact that this room is full and that all these people brought themselves and their hearts here to take a step forward in a positive way."
The crowd grieved the 11 lives lost at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, reading off each name one by one, and they looked ahead at how to break down divisions.
"We can't turn the other person into the enemy just because they're different from us," John said.
Bloom added, "The answer begins with dialogue and as children. We need to teach our children to respect each other and see the image of God in each other."
He said he hoped that from this tragedy will come an opportunity to grow stronger ties across our community, inspired by the Tree of Life.
"Now what is the most basic part of a tree? It's the roots. Each and every one of us should be a root of morality," Bloom said. "Then the roots will spread out wider, our tree will become stronger and it will be a tree of life that all of us together grasp onto."
Bloom is also co-chair of Fort Worth's Race and Culture Task Force. He said he planned to work even harder now at outreach and education, saying Thursday night we all need to learn to speak to each other and not over each other.
The man accused of the shootings in Pittsburgh pleaded not guilty in court Thursday. Forty-six-year-old Robert Bowers is accused of hate crimes and murder.
A federal trial could last three to four weeks. Pennsylvania state prosecutors are delaying their prosecution until the federal case is over.
Funerals for the victims started on Tuesday, with three more held on Thursday.