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We’re stronger together: Hillel 818 mourns the Pittsburgh massacre victims

Updated: Feb 28, 2019

The Jewish Student Union held a vigil on campus, something Jewish communities worldwide are partaking in.

By Meg Taylor, News Editor

Hillel 818 hosted a vigil on campus Thursday to honor the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre as well as to send a message of light and solidarity amongst the Jewish community.

The vigil started with a reading of the names of the 11 victims: Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger. These older members of the Jewish community went to the Tree of Life Congregation on Shabbat to attend a conservative shul, not knowing it would be the last service they would ever attend.

“It happened for one reason and one reason only–baseless hatred,” said Bryan Borenstein, Rabbi for Hillel 818. “The person who went into that synagogue didn’t care if he was going to kill an orthodox Jew, a conservative Jew or a reformed jew; he just wanted to kill Jews.”

Led by Borenstein, students, faculty and members of the Jewish community, as well as other faiths, gathered at the free speech area to share prayers, poems and pay their respect to the victims. The purpose of the vigil was to mourn those lost and to look forward as a community.

“The hatred that exists in our country is alive and strong. All of us coming here together today, we’re hopefully showing unity,” continued Borenstein. “A unification between Christians, Jews and Muslims, between gays and straights and blacks and whites. The fact that we’re all here in solidarity should show a message to the world at large.”

Other interfaith vigils have been held all over the United States as well as in many Canadian cities. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was darkened Sunday night. Multiple NFL games held moments of silence before kickoff to commemorate the dead. Players from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Coach Mike Tomlin went to the Rodef Shalom Temple on their off-day to pay their respects.

Although this event affects Jewish communities worldwide, the community of Squirrel Hill is traumatized. Saturday morning, parents were told to not go outside or let the children leave their homes. There was a lockdown Wednesday at the local elementary school, whose population is 30 percent Jewish. Many children in the community express that they do not want to go to school, do not want to leave the house and do not want to go to synagogues out of fear. However, the support and donations from people from all over the country are incredibly comforting to the residents of Squirrel Hill.

“The outpouring of support from all these vigils across the country is incredibly meaningful … The trauma that took place this past weekend is going to stay with that community for a very long time,” said David Katz, Hillel 818 director and former Pittsburgh resident. “I thank you for helping us and for helping them to heal and I really feel that today we are all part of the Pittsburgh community.”

Watch the entire vigi here.


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