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6:42 PM Wed, Nov. 14th

‘Prescott Stands with Pittsburgh’ vigil set for Saturday

This is a painted rock found Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, part of a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, to the 11 people killed during worship services Saturday Oct. 27, 2018. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

This is a painted rock found Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, part of a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, to the 11 people killed during worship services Saturday Oct. 27, 2018. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

First came disbelief and an “overwhelming feeling of sadness and helplessness” after local Jewish Community Foundation President David Hess heard word on Saturday of the mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Then came an outpouring of support and sympathy from Prescott friends and acquaintances.

“We’ve had a lot of phone calls and messages from people who are supportive of the Jewish Community Foundation,” Hess said Wednesday, of Prescott’s reaction to the Oct. 27 anti-Semitic attack that killed 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue.

That outpouring of sympathy, in turn, led to an idea for a community vigil to allow the community to grieve together.

“It feels like the community needs to come together to grapple with this heinous act against innocent people,” Hess said.

On Monday, he reached out to Prescott city officials with the idea, and by Tuesday, plans for a Yavapai County Courthouse plaza vigil were in place.

The “Prescott Stands with Pittsburgh” candlelight vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, on the courthouse steps to honor the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.

The event is being co-sponsored by the City of Prescott and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Prescott.

In a Tuesday morning news release from the city, Mayor Greg Mengarelli said, “Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the people of Pittsburgh, especially those who were touched by this tragedy. This vigil is our way of showing support for the people of Pittsburgh during this difficult time.”

Prescott Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr, who helped to organize the vigil, said she was sickened by the thought that people are vulnerable in their places of worships.

“I think it’s really important for the community,” Orr said of the vigil. “I love the theme – Prescott Stands with Pittsburgh – because we want to stand for what’s right for humanity. We stand with this community that’s been violated.”

The vigil will include brief remarks by Mengarelli, Hess, and Pastor Dan Storvick, retired minister from The American Lutheran Church of Prescott. There also will be comments by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and Prescott Valley Mayor Harvey Skoog, followed by a moment of silence, song and prayer. Electric candles will be distributed to the crowd.

“I just hope the community responds,” Orr said, noting that “gathering together to show love and support for one another” in times of grief shows “humanity at its best.”

Since hearing the news of the shooting, Hess said he has learned that a number of Prescott residents have ties to the Tree of Life Synagogue. “We seem connected to that community,” he said.

The candlelight vigil will be an opportunity to illustrate that connection.

“I hope it helps people heal,” Hess said.

According to an Associated Press account, Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old truck driver who authorities say raged against Jews as he gunned down 11 and wounded six, was charged Tuesday in a 44-count indictment with murder, hate crimes and other offenses that could bring the death penalty.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or cbarks@prescottaz.com.