The American Jewish community was attacked on Saturday morning. Just as Shabbat morning services were beginning, a man entered Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue and opened fire on the congregation, crying out, “All Jews must die!”
Eleven dedicated and integral members of the Tree of Life community died that day. They were murdered for waking up in the morning, making their way to synagogue, and beginning to pray. This senseless act of violence and anti-Semitism shattered the sanctity of the holy space and challenged the right to practice religion openly.
Not for the first time, the Jewish people feel unsafe and afraid to be outwardly Jewish. We are forced to confront a sad reality in our country and in the world: Hate, bigotry, and fear penetrate our world, even the places we regard as sanctuaries. We wonder who we might encounter on the street and what their intentions might be. On Saturday morning, we suffered an indescribable loss. It is one that will leave a deep scar for the foreseeable future.
And yet, on Sunday night, the unity among nearly 350 Columbia and Barnard community members—students, administrators, staff, faculty, and neighbors from all backgrounds—cultivated a vision of hope. At 8 p.m., Columbia/Barnard Hillel hosted a vigil at the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life, so that the community could come together, honor those who were lost in the shooting, support those who are hurting, and reflect on this communal atrocity as one.
We expressed feelings of sorrow, shock, and uncertainty. We were comforted by communal singing that expressed feelings words could not. Tears streamed down our faces as we heard from those among us with connections to Pittsburgh, those feeling vulnerable in the wake of tragedy, and those who came in solidarity. We found solace in each other’s words—in each other’s presence. And in this time of contemplation, we have, once again, seen the power in community.
We are broken, but our community is not. Indeed, together, we are perhaps more whole.
It has been a violent few weeks in America. This devastating attack is one in a string of hate crimes, each uniquely vicious. We must recognize the connections between these events and empower one another to feel and respond to each incident individually.
We are so grateful to all those who have stood with us in solidarity over the past few days. For our part, we will strive to comfort the broader Columbia/Barnard community at times of individual and collective need in this ongoing struggle against unjustifiable prejudice. As we continue to heal, we ask for the same empathy from our campus community. In a time of such fracture, let us look to each other to stitch together the tear in our moral fabric.
The authors are the Executive Board of Columbia/Barnard Hillel, elected by the Hillel community. Noa Shapiro is a senior at Barnard College, Sami Frankel is a senior at Columbia College, Shoshana Edelman is a senior at Barnard College, Sarah Senkfor is a senior at Barnard College, Jake Naimark is a junior at Columbia College, and Andrew Adler is a senior in the GS/JTS joint program. Reach them at email@example.com.