Jewish College Students at Dozens of Hillels on Campuses Across the Country Hold Vigils

Jewish College Students at Dozens of Hillels on Campuses Across the Country Hold Vigils

More than 250 students, clergy, staff and administrators came together at a Texas Hillel vigil in October. Courtesy of Texas Hillel.

By Tonyia Cone

In the wake of the horrific attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Jewish college students from dozens of Hillels on campuses across the country brought their communities together to hold vigils and memorials to grieve and find comfort.

Texas Hillel at the University of Texas at Austin held a vigil Oct. 30 on campus at Turtle Pond. The gathering brought together more than 250 students, clergy, staff and administration from the Jewish and greater campus communities for an evening of reflection, song and prayer.

Readings and remarks were shared by a few students, and Texas Hillel Executive Director Maiya Chard-Yaron and Rabbi Zev Johnson of Chabad at UT shared reflections. The campus Jewish community received a number of letters and messages of support from other religious and cultural groups on campus and in the community.

Eric D. Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International, traveled to Pittsburgh Sunday and spent time with students from the Hillel Jewish University Center, which serves Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

“The strength of the Pittsburgh community in the face of the attack on the Tree of Life Congregation was inspiring, as was the skill exhibited by the leadership of the Jewish and broader community. But even these positive notes cannot push back the sheer horror of the stories that I heard from those who were present at Tree of Life and from those who were in Squirrel Hill on Shabbat morning,” said Fingerhut. “I am so proud of the work of our Hillel professionals and student leaders who are coming together on their campuses to support one another, to mourn those we have lost and to reaffirm that we are stronger than hatred.”

Fingerhut continued: “We cannot forget and go back to our daily lives. We must stand with this community and support them always. And we must realize that Squirrel Hill and Tree of Life could have been any of our close-knit Jewish communities or any of our synagogues. This was an attack on all of us.”

Matthew Berger, vice president for communications at Hillel International added, “As we support our students and professionals in their incredible efforts to bring their communities together, safety is our highest priority. We regularly work with our law enforcement, university, and community partners to ensure the safety of all of our programs. We regularly review procedures with staff and partners and utilize all resources to protect our programs and facilities.” ■

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