Montreal rabbi searches for author of touching condolence note in wake of Pittsburgh attack

Montreal’s Jewish community has been left reeling following a deadly shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday. Eleven people were killed and six injured when a gunman stormed into the synagogue and started shooting.

Since the attack, Rabbi Alan W. Bright of the Shaare Zedek Congregation in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, has had trouble sleeping.

“It is 2:20 a.m. Sunday morning and needless to say I cannot find peace to rest,” he wrote in a Facebook post, adding his thoughts were “focused on the pain and anguish of the families whose loved ones were mercilessly slaughtered in shul this morning in Pittsburgh.”

Sometimes comfort comes from unexpected places.

For Bright, that comfort came in the shape of a rose and card, left by the synagogue’s main entrance Saturday night.

Rabbi Alan Bright found flowers and a note outside his synagogue a night or two ago. On the note was written a message of sympathy regarding the Pittsburgh shootings from a member of the Muslim community. Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.

On the note, was written a message of sympathy regarding the Pittsburgh shooting, from a member of the Muslim community.

“Please accept our sincere sympathies in the event of the tragedy in Pittsburgh. Your community is in our prayers in this difficult time. Your Muslim neighbours,” the letter reads.

“It really takes the sting out of the pain,” Bright said of the surprise discovery.

Bright was so moved by the gesture that his initial response was to fight back tears. He is also trying to find the person who left the note.

“I’d like to be able to give them a hug and maybe shake their hand,” he said, adding he’d understand if the author chose to remain anonymous.

“I don’t know who sent it, it was anonymous, but maybe that’s part of the beauty about it.”

Bright also intends on incorporating the rose at a commemoration ceremony on Saturday, and to preserve it as a keepsake afterwards.

“After the ceremony, we’ll have the rose professionally dried and frame the note,” Bright said, adding he hopes to hang it at the front entrance of the synagogue.

Quebec’s Muslim community has been quick to condemn the attack and offer its heartfelt condolences.

Many attended a vigil at Montreal’s Holocaust Museum on Sunday, saying the tragedy at the Pennsylvania synagogue has brought back painful memories.

“We have passed through this in Quebec City just a couple years ago and we know how hard this is and to lose innocent lives for no reason whatsoever, no guilt whatsoever, only because of their faith, during the most peaceful time — during prayer time,” said Samer Majzoub, Canadian Muslim Forum president.

Six worshippers were killed and 19 others were injured after a lone gunman entered the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City in January 2017.

Officials at the mosque said in a statement that it was “the madness of men,” that befell those gathered for a Sabbath service in Pittsburgh.

Centre co-founder Boufeldja Benabdallah, said news of the shooting stirred up terrible memories and his first response was to contact members of the Quebec City Jewish community — a small group that came to the aid of the local Muslim community when it was attacked.

The Islamic centre’s board said in the statement the pain felt by Jewish families is one they understand all too well. They said it is an act of “enormous gravity” that “cannot leave us indifferent.”

A vigil to honour the lives of the victims of the Pittsburgh tragedy will be held Monday night at the Beth Israel Beth Aaron synagogue in Côte Saint-Luc.

Bright encouraged members of the congregation to attend the community vigil and to not lose faith.

“By continuing to come to synagogue for worship, fellowship and learning we demonstrate our resilience as a people,” he said.

— With files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez, Anne Leclair and The Canadian Press

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