To commemorate the people who passed away on Oct. 27 when a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, a vigil took place on the 25th Street Plaza. Art King, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, organized the vigil with Hillel at Baruch College, the Office of Student Life, the Undergraduate Student Government and other student clubs.
Everyone in the crowd was given an electronic candle and lyrics to the song “One Day” by Matisyahu and “Imagine” by John Lennon. They were also handed the names of the 11 victims killed at the Tree of Life and the two victims killed at a Kroger supermarket after a gunman failed to enter a predominately black Baptist church on Oct. 24 in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.
Shabbat, which lasts from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, is a holy day in Judaism. Some of the Jewish members of the Pittsburgh community decided to spend that particular Shabbat at the Tree of Life synagogue.
Ilya Bratman, executive director of Hillel at Baruch, spoke about his personal connection to Pittsburgh. Bratman lived in Pittsburgh and attended the Tree of Life synagogue numerous times.
Bratman said he also knew two of the victims, David and Cecil Rosenthal. Bratman said he remembers the brothers always greeting people. They were always the first to arrive, sat in the back to welcome people and tragically were the first to be killed on the day of the massacre.
Bratman also discussed the political climate in the country today. “Hatred has been on the rise for many, many months,” said Bratman.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Christy, Rabbi Reuven Kigel and current president of Hillel Ben Davidov also gave speeches to the large audience.
The three of them talked about the injustice of the shootings and the future of religious communities.
“Your spirituality, your spiritual life is part of your identity and you must feel free to express that part of your identity without fear. And this is one of the things that I hope we reinforce in one another today,” Christy said.
“This past week we have endured, I think one of the darkest weeks in modern American history. … I have no words to express my emotions and feelings upon hearing the news Saturday night,” Davidov said.
After the speeches, the crowd participated in the singing of “One Day” and “Imagine.”
Thirteen people stood in front of the stage, each holding a candle and a photo of a victim, including The Ticker‘s Arts and Style Editor Benjamin Wallin.
Many people were brought to tears by the speeches and songs. Bratman ended the vigil by asking everyone to be there for one another.
Each speaker emphasized that the only way to fight hate was to spread kindness and love.
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