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Students hold vigil in response to synagogue shooting

On Tuesday, Oct. 29, a vigil was held in JRC 101 in remembrance of the anti-Semitic violence at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. This gathering, which was open to the whole campus, followed a similar event on Monday night in which Jewish students were welcomed to the CRSSJ garage to find support and solidarity among one another.

The students of Chalutzim organized both events after they realized that the administration had not released a statement concerning the tragedy.

“The vigil … because we don’t have a rabbi, we weren’t really sure kind of what to do or who was organizing it,” said Noah Segal ’19. “But Deanna Shorb [dean of religious life] reached out to us from the CRSSJ and she’s been great and has been really helping us. We were really able to get it together because Dylan Caine ’21 reached out to a rabbi in Ames and there’s … very few rabbis in Iowa, but he was able to come down and do that.”

Segal said that coming back to campus after the shooting presented a unique set of challenges.

“Coming back to campus after the shooting was a little jarring [because] one, we were all dealing with it personally, but then … with the lack of structure in terms of having, like, the wider Jewish leadership without a rabbi or without really any paid person at this time, we were trying to figure out how to make sure that the lives [that] were lost were honored and memorialized and also kind of how to deal with the wider issues of antisemitism. We’ve felt like both of those things were very important to address,” he said.

Amelia Geser ’19 also expressed her frustration with organizing the vigil in an email to The S&B.

“Since we had to scramble to find a Rabbi and organize a space, the service was more stressful than relaxing for many of us,” wrote Geser. “It was hard to return to a campus where we, a very small representation of all the Jews on campus, had to plan and organize everything at a time when we should have been able to decompress and grieve.”

President of the College Raynard Kington’s response caused further confusion among students. On Monday afternoon, he sent out an email about the massacre after Shorb’s all campus email, addressed specifically to a group of Jewish and non-Jewish students concerning the shooting.

“We were disappointed with [Kington’s] response and it was not really until … students and faculty and … even some alumni [asked] the administration [to] send out an all campus memo condemning antisemitic violence and violence and hate as a whole … after a lot of urging we got an email that … [was] just to the Jewish students but it was unclear where they even got that list and I know not all Jewish students got this email,” Segal said.

Segal believes that the email should have been sent out to the whole campus community, as Jewish students and faculty weren’t the only people impacted by the event.

“It didn’t feel very sufficient, one … we know that there is antisemitism in this country and on this campus but it’s important that the rest of the campus who isn’t knows that there is antisemitism. We appreciate the administration sending out an email to us, however they figured out who the Jewish students were, but … that wasn’t totally the point, the point is that the whole campus knows that this is an issue,” Segal said.

After receiving the email, the group of students involved in organizing the vigil expressed their concern to Kington regarding the email, after which Kington invited the Chaluztim and Jewish leadership on campus to sit down with him and dean of the college Mike Latham.

“We do … appreciate them reaching out and it seems like they are interested in helping, but… there was nobody really from the administration at the vigil,” Segal said. “Going forward we really hope that … they recognize that we need their support…that it’s important that they … step up and meet us to make sure that the Jewish community on campus is supported and feels that the administration is on our side.”


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