GREENSBORO — Driving up to Temple Emanuel at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, parking spots were filled within a quarter mile of the building. The community rally against hate and violence to honor victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting didn’t start for another 45 minutes, but a constant stream of people of many different faiths and spiritualities were making their way to the temple in solidarity with the Jewish community. 

The gathering included traditional Jewish prayers and songs, as well as blessings and teachings from Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Strangers held hands, prayed together, joined each other in song and embraced each other throughout the night. 

Temple Emanuel's president Amy Thompson said while the circumstances prompting the gathering were grim, the sense of community was overwhelming. 

“It’s unbelievable, I have not seen so many people seeing old friends and hugging and people you know from all over the city,” Thompson said. “It’s very warm and cohesive and I think everyone is very glad be to be here and have a way to express how they feel, their horror at what’s been going on.” 

Anne Parsons, a member of Temple Emanuel, says the events of Saturday hit really close to home for her and her peers. 

“Often I’m on shabbat services on a Saturday morning, so just thinking of the people who were there getting ready to pray and having him come in and take their lives is just devastating,” Parsons said. 

She said the Pittsburgh shooting won’t change her religious habits. 

“I don’t feel unsafe in the day-to-day, but I do feel a general anxiety and lack of safety for marginalized people everywhere,” Parsons said. 

As a member of the LGBTQIA community, Parsons hopes people will see the big picture and use the night to reflect on how all minority groups manage living in a country whose climate she described as hateful.

Although she doesn’t think there’s blatant anti-Semitism in the Greensboro community, Parsons said she sees a lack of understanding about what Judaism is. 

“I do hope the community here in NC can learn more about what it is to be Jewish. And hopefully that will prevent some of the misunderstanding that often leads to hate,” Parsons said. 

Thompson said she’s glad the gathering wasn’t limited to the Jewish community. 

“At an evening like this, it makes me hopeful that people will find a way to bridge all of our differences and join together, avert these kinds of tragedies,” Thompson said.