Religious groups tighten security in the wake of Pittsburgh shooting

Mike Sims, president of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, said some religious institutions, including Temple Emanu-El, have evaluated security to keep their members safe after the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27.

Sims said he harbors no grudge against Robert Bowers, the 46-year-old truck driver who pleaded ‘not guilty’ for the shooting that left 11 people dead and seven injured.

“You’ve heard the old saying, ‘An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.’ It hit home for us because we’re Jews,” he said. “It hit home because some of our members are from Pittsburgh and some of our members have friends and family in the area. So, it was very real to us.”

Immediately after the shooting, two prayer services were held in Dallas. One was at Congregation Shearith Israel where a community service of healing was held the next night, Oct. 28.

Mike Sims, Temple Emanu-El president.

Mike Sims, Temple Emanu-El president.

“It was powerful,” Sims said. Members from congregations all over town attended. Some were not Jewish, including a dear friend of Sims, who was a law professor at Southern Methodist University (SMU), a pastor from First Presbyterian Church who gave him a hug and Muslims from the Ismaili community in Plano who all came to grieve and pay their respects.

The second service, held at Temple Emanu-El on Nov. 2, brought together more than 1,000 people, including the mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, and people of various faiths.

“It was an evening of solidarity Shabbat (the Hebrew word for sabbath) to show that we all stand together against hate and as a community,” Sims said.

Sims said that he does not wish a harsh punishment for Bowers.

“The criminal justice system will decide that. That is not something that falls under my purview nor within my hopes. I think that the more important thing is that hopefully from his horrible act, I hope that [some] good occurs,” he said. “That communities of faith can come together, that groups that regard one another as different or as ‘another’ or in fact realize that there is far more [that] binds us as humans than divides us as Christians, Jews or black or white.”

“When you think about it, the first words of the U.S. Constitution are: ‘We the people,’ not ‘We some people,’” he said. “And the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the freedom of religion, and that is for you to practice your religion as you see fit and for me to practice my religion as I see fit, and for both of us as part of ‘We the people’ to respect one another’s right to do so.”

Sims said Temple Emanu-El is a congregation of more than 2,600 families with members of all ages. According to its website, the Hillcrest Road location in Dallas was built in 1957, however, the congregation itself was founded in 1875.