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Jewish student organization, fraternity host on-campus vigil in wake of Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting

Jewish student organization, fraternity host on-campus vigil in wake of Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting

Jewish student organization, fraternity host on-campus vigil in wake of Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting
November 02
17:36 2018

About 75 people took part in a candlelight vigil Thursday evening to show solidarity with the Jewish community in the wake of a mass shooting which occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 leaving 11 dead and six injured. The vigil was hosted by UNT’s Hillel and the Mu Gamma chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity.

The 11 victims of the shooting, Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger ranged in age from 54 – 97.

Robert Bowers, the accused shooter, was taken into custody and has since plead not guilty.

“After the synagogue shooting on Saturday, students approached me,” said Melissa Duchin, executive director of Hillels of North Texas. “ Well, [they] came to me online. Were organizing a vigil and wanted the campus community specifically to come out and show support that in the wake of something that was fueled by hatred, that was anti-other, that the UNT community could come together, support each other, be there for the Jewish community that’s reeling from this eventAnd [to] show that we’re a community of kindness, we’re a community that supports each other in hard times.”

One of the speakers at the vigil was Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis of Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound. Dennis shared the importance of candles in the Jewish tradition of mourning and remembrance.

“The candle is a symbol of memory, the candle is a symbol of the human soul, a candle as the sign of divine presence at a time when things are dark,” Dennis said. “Each of us has for ourselves a symbolic candle to put ourselves within that Jewish tradition.”

Papers with images and descriptions of those lost in the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27. This vigil was held in the library mall on the Thursday evening. Ashley Gallegos

Moses Molina, computer science junior and president of the Mu Gamma chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi and said he feels the Pittsburgh shooting should encourage more people to physically come out and show their support in the wake of tragedies.

“We consume information so fast nowadays and we forget about it so quickly that it’s really important to do the in-person stuff, to come out, to do the physical thing, which is come out and physically show your support [on foot],” Molina said. “That’s very different than [lying] in bed, reading a news article, maybe tearing up and then forgetting about it within 20 minutes.”

Duchin said it is “horrifying and saddening” to see any kind of violence against a community, and the one that took place on shabbat morning was a senseless act against Jewish people simply for being Jewish.

“In Jewish tradition, you need 10 people to make a minyan [prayer group], to have a community to pray with,” Duchin said. “We lost an entire community to pray with, and it was absolutely horrifying to learn that the shooter yelled ‘All Jews must die,’ before unloading loads of bullets into the synagogue filled with people there to celebrate a new baby in the community.”

The shooting in Pittsburgh has also caused some members of the UNT community to question whether enough is being done on the part of the government to prevent such violence.

Students gathered outside the UNT Union Thursday to mourn the 11 people that dies in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27.  Ashley Gallegos 

“I’m not alone in believing that this event and similar racist white supremacist, homophobic, transphobic acts of violence have been escalating because of the rhetoric that is coming from our president,” said Deborah Armintor, an associate professor of English and Denton City Councilwoman. “Right now, before our government can do more to prevent it, they need to do less to encourage it.”

Evan Cote, a biology sophomore and member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, spoke to the crowd about how he has felt fearful in the wake of events like Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016 and the shooting in Pittsburgh as they attacked important parts of his identity.

“To have something else of that caliber occur, to have another part of me attacked with such hateful actions, to be quite honest, it makes me a little bit scared to be who I am,” Cote said. “Just like when the Pulse Nightclub shooting happened there was an overwhelming outpouring of love and support from many other communities that I didn’t even know existed [and] it’s helped ease the fear of living as who I am in the world today.”

Molina shared his own words of encouragement for those who may be fearful of other events of this nature occurring in the future.

“It’s important to feel strong, to keep your culture and feel strongly about it because otherwise what identifies you?” Molina said. “It’s important to remember who you are and to not let other people tell you who you are and who you can be.”

News Editor Sean Riedel contributed to this story. 

Featured Image: Community members gathered outside of the UNT Union on Thursday to pay tribute to the 11 people who died in a mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27. Ashley Gallegos

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Alex Hall

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