Lori Weintrob, Director, Wagner College Holocaust Center
Victor and Kim Avis, Chairs, Chai Society of Wagner College
We are heartbroken at the attack on the Jewish community of Pittsburgh this past weekend. We grieve with the families who lost loved ones during this heinous attack at a place of worship. We pledge to stand united and strong in the face of this tragedy as we mourn the most devastating recent attack on Jews in America.
The outpouring of sympathy from the interfaith community on Staten Island and around the country has been a source of light in this dark time. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in the U.S. and around the world. We garner our courage to fight back against anti-Semitism and hate in all its forms. We must renew our commitment to education among those of all faiths to combat prejudice and make our nation stronger.
This horrific attack appears to have been triggered, in part, by the participation of the Tree of Life synagogue in the national Refugee Shabbat last weekend, organized by HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Wagner College Holocaust Center, our Hillel and our Chai Society proudly organized a Shabbat dinner as part of this effort to promote dialogue about the challenges and rewards to welcoming refugees into our country. “Young Refugees: Past and Present” was chosen as the theme of our programming this year at the Holocaust Center and of our upcoming annual Egon J. Salmon Commemoration of Kristallnacht and the St. Louis on Nov. 7.
We mourn the loss of these precious eleven lives and express our solidarity with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh and all Americans. In addition, we commit to action and positive change. Here are some suggestions:
- Do a mitzvah or good deed in memory of one of the victims.
- Let us show our pride in our heritage and the dynamism of Jewish culture.
- Condemn any hateful speech that targets others because of their religious beliefs, race, gender or other differences.
- Indeed, let us reach out to others across cultural, religious or political differences and learn from one another.
- Reflect upon and educate ourselves on why anti-Semitism and hate crimes have escalated and what policies or steps by civic and governmental groups might address the underlying causes.
Let us send our condolences and uplift those in pain with our thoughts and actions.
Abraham Unger, Campus Rabbi
This past Saturday morning October 27, 2018, during a traditional Jewish Sabbath service, 11 worshippers were gunned down in synagogue during their prayers. Six more people were injured by the same active shooter. Four of those injured were police officers. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, the Pittsburgh Jewish community, and the Pittsburgh law enforcement community.
The worshippers were killed because, as the shooter declared, they were Jewish. The police officers were shot as they tried to protect Jews during this massacre. This attack has been classified by the federal government as a hate crime.
In the face of inexplicable loss of life the natural human instinct is to seek ways to understand. But, there is no understanding here, because any attempt at explanation may inadvertently seem to provide a rational reason for an irrational act. We will not go there. We defiantly offer no attempt at understanding, at explaining, because that would take away from the sheer barbarism of this act.
Contemporary Jewish philosopher Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik stated that when tragedy occurs we don’t ask why, because we will never know. Rather, we ask what is demanded of us at this moment. As Jews, emerging from a faith tradition born in antiquity and founded upon ethics and the rule of law, we ask what our responsibility is right now in response to the Pittsburgh massacre.
Right now, our tradition asks us to mourn. Nothing more, nothing less. This is our task. We remember the 11 souls taken in a storm of bullets. Our congregations say Kaddish, the memorial prayer, for the dead. We pray for the recovery of the six injured. For them, we say Mi-Sheberachs, the prayer for healing. We practice nichum aveilim, the comfort of mourners. Notes are sent to the families of the bereaved. Visits are made. Tehillim, psalms, are recited. The whole Jewish community holds each other and cries. Americans hold each other, and cry.
Today, tomorrow, the day after, and next Sabbath, we return to our pews of worship. All of us, Americans one and all, never falter, even for a day. Our footing is not lost.
This is our answer to tragedy: we mourn it when it happens, and then we rise up stronger than before.
Ruth Kupperberg, President, Wagner College Hillel
We, as students, have to rise up against the evils of anti-Semitism and do our part as a community to prevent any and all acts of hate that may appear on our campus.
As Wagner students, we need to devote ourselves to condemning hateful speech that targets someone because of their religious beliefs, race or gender, no matter how “innocent” it may seem. None of our friends or faculty should ever feel unsafe or unwelcome because of who they are or how they identify themselves.
We, as students, have to understand that we must go a step further and devote ourselves to doing acts of kindness and good deeds wherever and however we can.
I’m certain that all students will stand up against the event that took place on Saturday in Pittsburgh and make a pledge to be leaders against any hate in our Wagner community.