Community members react after Pittsburgh synagogue massacre

Eleven dead, six injured following mass shooting in Pennsylvania

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Eleven people are dead and six people are injured following a mass shooting at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday.

The shooting is among the deadliest attacks on Jewish people in United States’ history, according to The Associated Press. Among the shooting victims are Jewish worshippers and police officers.

A suspected gunman, Robert Bowers, opened fire at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. On Saturday, the Department of Justice filed 29 federal charges, including hate crimes and weapons charges, against Bowers, according to the department’s website.

Daniel Levy, a junior public health major and Jewish student, said when he first heard about Saturday’s shooting he felt like his heart was broken.

“Time after time, people are persecuted for acting a certain way, whether it be following a religion, having certain political views or having a comfortable way of identifying one’s self,” Levy said.

“Every year there are always situations where people are negatively effected and even killed because they act a certain way. I wish all my thoughts and prayers to the people who were affected by the massacre and hope that we never forget.”

In the context of gun violence and mass shootings, Levy said he believes that gun laws in America should be enforced more, but not to the point where people should lose their guns.

“I know many people who have guns and they shouldn’t lose their ability to have a gun because of the issues taking place [in America],” Levy said. “I do believe that this and all of the mass shootings [in America] are tragedies, but I don’t believe that violence will ... stop because of guns. However, I don’t believe that it should be this easy to obtain certain types of guns that could cause mass amounts of harm.”

Members of Jewish on-campus organizations, such as Hillel of Buffalo, said they are emotionally hurt and devastated by the attack this past weekend.

Rabbi Sara Rich, executive director of Hillel of Buffalo, said her group’s hearts go out to the Pittsburgh Jewish community and Buffalo community members who know anyone affected by the tragedy.

“We condemn this violence and pray for a time when no one is persecuted for religious beliefs, race, ethnicity or any other differences that sometimes set people apart,” Rich said.

Rich said the attack was “horrifying,” but due to similar recent shootings, it “was not shocking and that alone is tragic.”

“I hope the community responds by refusing to become jaded and complacent, when it happens to Jews or to any other group,” Rich said. “We cannot become numb to violence and hatred in our society. “

Others, such as Logan Woodard -- Hillel of Buffalo’s Springboard Ezra Jewish education specialist –– echo Rich’s thoughts.

“I think it’s truly tragic and it’s very heartbreaking,” Woodard said. “I definitely think that it’s scary that this is an unfortunate reality for people.”

Rich said as Hillel is a student-driven organization, she is looking to students for its next steps.

“I hope Hillel can partner with other campus groups to raise awareness and work together towards justice and mutual respect,” Rich said.

Hillel of Buffalo will be hosting a vigil on Monday in response to the synagogue massacre. The vigil will happen at the Hillel of Buffalo suite, 101B, in the UB Commons at 4:30 p.m. Chabad at Buffalo will also be holding a vigil on Monday at the Chabad House at 6 p.m. 

Benjamin Blanchet is the senior features editor and can be reached benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com and @BenjaminUBSpec on Twitter