On Sunday night, hundreds of Yale community members gathered at the Women’s Table to mourn the victims of Saturday’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
At the vigil, Jewish student leaders and Slifka Center staff spoke about the Saturday morning attack and led prayers and songs in remembrance of the victims. Saturday’s shooting, which left 11 dead and six wounded, was considered the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history. The shooting occurred during a morning Shabbat service at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“Each of us is here tonight because we know that what happened yesterday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh didn’t happen to them, it happened to us,” said Rabbi Jason Rubenstein, the Jewish chaplain at Yale. “We know that attacks against religious minorities in America are attacks against all of us.”
Roughly 300 students, faculty and Yale community members — including University President Peter Salovey and Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun — congregated for the 30-minute vigil, which was co-hosted by Slifka Center and Yale University Chaplain’s Office. Joe Blumberg ’19, a leader of the reform Jewish group Reform Chavurah, led the crowd in song at the beginning and end of the vigil. Yale’s Jewish a cappella group Magevet performed “Eli Eli,” the same song they had sung just months ago during a spring break tour stop at the Tree of Life synagogue.
Alex Roth ’19, a member of Magevet, said at the vigil that she lives a mile away from Tree of Life, calling the synagogue a “venue that represents what the Jewish community stands for and what Pittsburgh stands for.” Vigil organizer and staff columnist for the News Avigayil Halpern ’19 suspected that the synagogue was targeted by a white supremacist, who was openly anti-Semitic and anti-refugee online. Halpern suspected that the synagogue was targeted for both being Jewish and hosting a congregation that works to resettle refugees in Pittsburgh.
“The vision of Jewishness that was attacked yesterday was a vision of a world in which human dignity is real and the presence of God is manifest at every single moment of the week,” Halpern told the crowd.
Yale University Chaplain Sharon Kugler shared a prayer asking the community to “embody God’s own grieving heart,” while Slifka’s Senior Jewish Educator Rabbi Dan Ross recited the names of the 11 victims. At the end of the vigil, community members placed tea lights on the Women’s Table.
Slifka Hillel Board co-Presidents Gabe Dolsten ’20 and Margo Feuer ’20, a former production and design editor of the News, said they were heartened by the high turnout to the vigil and added that the tragedy is deeply affecting many students involved in Slifka as well as those connected to Pittsburgh. They urged students to check in with their Jewish peers and express support for the Jewish community on behalf of their clubs and organizations. Halpern said that students can also show solidarity by researching anti-Semitism, which she called a “very misunderstood form of prejudice.”
After the vigil. Uri Cohen, executive director of Slifka Center, told the News that the shooting was a “tragedy for everyone” and resonated with people from all backgrounds and religious faiths.
“This is not just a Jewish story. Today it’s the Jews but yesterday it was the people in the baptist church in Texas … this is a human story, it talks about reality in 21st century humanity and in 2018 America,” Cohen said. “It’s something we all have to do something about.”
Cohen said that Slifka Center will be reviewing its security measures in the aftermath of the shooting, and the center will work to strike a balance between keeping the community safe while remaining a welcoming place for students.
The Slifka Center was founded in 1995.
Alice Park | firstname.lastname@example.org