NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - About 400 people crowded into Chabad Synagogue Tuesday night in a show of unity and support in the wake of last weekend's shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California.
Many had gathered in Highland Park and walked down Raritan Avenue to attend the event on College Avenue.
Once there, they joined local activists, members of Rutgers fraternities and sororities, concerned neighbors, members of the Orthodox Jewish community and even New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal in a call to meet evil, antisemitism, and hate everywhere with unflinching love kindness and charity.
"At some point, everybody has to stand up and say it's wrong. If you don't do something, you're part of the problem," said Elise Gonzales, who came from Highland Park to attend the event. "I think it was upbeat and there was a lot of unity and that was encouraged. I was happy that was encouraged."
"You can lift this event up by being kind, being undeterred in what we have to give to the world," added Judy Petsonk, also from Highland Park.
As Jews prayed inside the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in a California suburb on the final day of Passover, a man entered and opened fire on worshippers.
Lori Kaye, 60, who was at the synagogue to mourn her mother’s death, was killed in the attack. Three others were injured.
John Earnest, 19, has been arrested and charged with one count of murder and several counts of attempted murder. According to several news reports, Earnest had expressed his antisemitic feelings in various journals he kept.
Those at the event on Tuesday night watched a video of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was injured in the Poway shooting. Goldstein recounted taking a tallis, or a prayer shawl, and using it to wrap around his fingers which had been nicked by gunfire.
Those who also spoke at the program included Israeli consulate spokesman Yisrael Nitzan, Rutgers vice chancellor Salvador Mena and Anti-Defamation League regional director Evan Bernstein.
Also, Rabbi Yosef Carlebach of Chabad House prayed for peace and understanding among all people.
Rivka Greenberg, the administrative coordinator at Chabad House, was amazed at the sense of unity surrounding the program, especially considering the program was arranged in just 24 hours.
"I looked at the people who came and there was a nice diverse group of people," she said. "It's very comforting. It's reassuring that there are people who are standing with us against hate in general. It's not just antisemitism that's happening right now. There's a lot of anti-Muslim and anti-Christian (sentiment). There just seems to be a lot of extremism. I guess they can identify with what the Jewish community is going through right now because they may have experienced the same thing."