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Reflecting on Pittsburgh

Nov 12, 2018

It has been a couple of weeks since the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue and I am still left with lots of emotions and questions about this recent tragedy. It has unfortunately become common to hear on the news that there was a shooting somewhere, but this one hits close to home.  It could have been me, any of my friends, family members or colleagues sitting in that room and our whole lives would have been turned upside down. It is now the friends and family of the 11 that were taken too soon who are left with this horrible feeling. A feeling I cannot imagine, yet I feel their pain too. I believe it is important to reflect on how beautiful it is to come together as a community after a tragedy and not let this act of hate steer people away from showing their Jewish pride.


On October 27, 2018, 11 people were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In the week following, communities around the world, including Oregon Hillel at UO came together for a memorial service, to in honor the victims of this tragic attack.  During Oregon Hillel’s interfaith memorial, attended by over 100 people, many community members spoke from their heart. The service was an opportunity to say prayers, light memorial candles and write letters to the grieving Squirrel Hill community.  Seth Murawsky, student and active member of the Jewish community, shared with me how these recent events have affected him. “The events that unfolded were not only tragic for the Jewish people, but also tragic for the entirety of the United States. The loss of 11 members of the Jewish community has been very personal for me and has given me time to reflect on who I am as a Jew. I consider the Jewish community to be a second family to me. Similar to my biological family, I know that the Jewish community across the world is there for me, no matter what corner of the globe I find myself in.  That being said, the tragedy felt like an assault on my family, but I did not respond with anger. While the incident does bring up fear in my mind, it brings up an even greater feeling of love for my community.”

After attending this memorial service myself and having time to reflect, I realize that it is imperative to use your voice to stand up for the Jewish people and prove this will not silence you.  Wear your pride loud and clear, in the hopes of fighting anti-Semitism, which is what Seth and many others, will continue to do. “I know that no matter what, I will continue to wear a kippah on my head and a mezuzah near my heart and continue to say, “we will not go away.”  Jews and non-Jews alike have gathered across the country not just in mourning for those we have lost, they’ve also gathered to symbolically say “we will not go away.” Through the gathering of all kinds of people, which I have seen a great deal of over the last several days, the love we show for each other will prove to triumph over the evils of hatred and bigotry.”

Coming together as a community, whether it be through Hillel, Chabad, Akiva, continuing to live with your Jewish values, etc, all matter and are beautiful expressions of community.  Continue to wear your star of david, your hamsa, kippah, tzit tzit, anything showing support and solidarity for the Jewish community, to take a stand and rise up from this hateful act.  Carly Pildis, writer for the Tablet magazine said something I could not put into better words myself. She states, “We need to slow down and remember what this was: An attack on a synagogue. An attack on Jews while they prayed. An act of anti-Semitic violence against a community that refuses to be silenced.”  Use your voice, rise above the hate, and remember that no matter where you go, someone will be there to help you through this difficult time.

Please know that there is a community here in Oregon that is always here to help in any way you may need.  Our doors are open to anyone who needs a space to grieve, to process what you've experienced, and are looking to come together with friends and community. We are a home away from home for students who are away from their families, and are here for you, whatever you need.

David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill (brother of Cecil Rosenthal)

Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill (brother of David Rosenthal)

Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross Township

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood

Irving Younger, 69, of Mt. Washington

Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill

Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland

Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg (married to Sylvan Simon)

Sylvan Simon, 87, of Wilkinsburg (married to Bernice Simon)

Melvin Wax, 87, of Squirrel Hill

Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill

ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם, דיין האמת

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam, dayan ha-emet.

"Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Judge of Truth”

Written by Samantha Katzeff

Class of 2020


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1059 Hilyard Street
Eugene, OR 97401-3716
(541) 343-8920


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