SCRANTON – Praying for peace and standing in solidarity with the victims of a surprise attack by Hamas in southern Israel, local religious leaders and elected officials gathered at the Jewish Community Center in Scranton Oct. 9, 2023.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, spoke on behalf of the Roman Catholic community and joined faith leaders of several other religious traditions in expressing his grief and sorrow for the events that have been transpiring since the weekend.

More than 200 people attended a Solidarity with Israel event at the Jewish Community Center in Scranton Oct. 9. Bishop Bambera spoke on behalf of the Catholic community. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

“On behalf of the Catholic community of northeastern and north central Pennsylvania and well beyond, please know that we stand with the nation of Israel and the Jewish communities both locally and throughout the world,” Bishop Bambera said. “We pray with, and for you, this night for God’s peace. I think it is fair to say that our hearts, like yours, are broken.”

Bishop Bambera said he grieves the loss of every life that has been taken so brutally and senselessly.

“We call upon the power and presence of God to heal the land of Israel and the lives of all who suffer this day,” the bishop continued.

Nearly 200 people attended the interfaith gathering organized by the the local Jewish Federation.

Rabbi Alex Hecht of the Beth Shalom Congregation in Scranton said the targeting of the Jewish people is “as vicious as the Nazis 80 years ago,” adding, “This is really an attack on the entire Jewish people.”

The war – which started after Hamas militants invaded Israel on Oct. 7, taking more than 150 soldiers and civilians hostage – has already claimed at least 1,600 lives as of Oct. 10. The violence is only expected to escalate as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “What we will do to our enemies in the coming days will reverberate with them for generations.”

Reverend Rebecca A. Barnes of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, who serves as president of the Scranton Area Ministerium, recalled how she was in Israel on a study pilgrimage one year ago.

“We come together, people of different traditions, and we lament,” Mother Barnes said. “We stand together in condemnation of the terrorist attacks of Hamas and all forms of violence and acts of inhumanity and injustice. By whatever name we call God, we call together on God, whose heart – like ours – is broken.”

David Fallk of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania thanked not only the faith leaders, but the dozens of community members, who attended the prayer service.

“The situation demands our attention and our attendance,” Fallk said. “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for people of good will to do nothing. I see people of good will doing something, expressing their concern not just for our community here but for the entire Jewish community, particularly those in Israel.”

Dan Cardonick, Executive Director of Jewish Community Center of Scranton that hosted the prayer service, said the last few days have been among the “darkest in Israel’s history.”

“Together, let us commit to a future where peace rules, families can live without fear, and dreams of a brighter tomorrow become a reality,” he said.

Cardonick urged people to continue to show their support for the people of Israel and refuse to remain silent.

“Our shock and anger at these horrific terrorist attacks are juxtaposed with heartbreak for the families of the victims, the state of Israel, and the entire Jewish people,” he added.

The prayer service ended with a song of peace.

The words of the song echoed many of the sentiments in the prayer with which Bishop Bambera closed his remarks.

“Oh God, rend your heavens and come into our midst. Console your people in their grief, comfort them in their pain, let justice prevail and peace reign in the hearts of your people and in your Holy Land,” Bishop Bambera prayed.

After the Scranton community gathered in solidarity with the people of Israel on Monday night, the Jewish Community of the Wyoming Valley held a similar gathering on Tuesday evening, Oct. 10, at the Jewish Community Center in Kingston.