UB community holds vigils to commemorate the losses at Pittsburgh synagogue massacre

Hillel of Buffalo and Chabad of Buffalo hosts memorial services to honor victims

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UB community members lit eleven candles on Monday night to commemorate the lives lost at the Tree of Life massacre on Saturday.

Both Hillel of Buffalo and Chabad of Buffalo held vigils where community members of various races and religions gathered to mourn the losses of their Jewish brothers and sisters who were targeted at the Pittsburgh synagogue on Shabbat. 

Despite the tragic circumstances, the conversation was positive with discussion focused on building community and solidarity during the time of distress.

Both organizations offered prayers, songs and readings from the Torah to honor those killed and injured. 

Rabbi Moshe Gurary of Chabad said that the best way to honor the victims is to “do something spiritual for them.”

“One of the good things about living in this world is the opportunity to do good deeds,” Gurary said. “Doing good deeds in their memory is as if they are doing them [themselves].”

Sasha Shapiro, a junior computer science major acknowledged the need to focus on the specificity of the attack, emphasizing the underlying motives of white supremacy and anti-Semitism.

“This is an absolutely terrifying reminder that we as a Jewish community are directly in the path of that,” Shapiro said. 

Shapiro also expressed his dismay with President Donald Trump’s response to the tragedy.

Trump offered a political and militaristic response to the shooting.
 “If they had an armed guard inside they would have been able to stop him immediately,” Trump said.

“I think that it’s too little too late,” Shapiro said. “When the alt-right and Nazis marched in Charlottesville a year ago and chanted ‘Jews will not replace us,’ [Trump] called them very fine people, and I’m not going to forget that.”

Hillel’s Rabbi Sara Rich said that she is concerned with the variety of channels in which people can promote anti-Semitism.

“It seems like it’s more acceptable to express it,” Rich said. “It’s just shocking to me, it should be the opposite. We should learn our lessons by now. The only way to regain our footing is to grab hold of each other.”

“Hillel of Buffalo really strives to be a partner on this campus in making Buffalo a better place and hopefully making the world a better place,” she said. “We don’t want to do it alone. We want to work together, we know we can get more accomplished that way.” 

Moving forward, Logan Woodard, Hillel's Springboard Ezra Jewish Education Specialist, said that all students are welcome at Hillel of Buffalo.

Woodard said students are welcome to stop by the office any time to discuss current issues such as gun violence and anti-Semitism, and any ways that the shooting has affected them.

“If they want to just sit down and get away from things or speak to any of the staff members here they are certainly welcome to do that,” Woodard said. “They can use this as a safe space for sure.”

Rich emphasized that members of the Jewish community should not allow the tragedy to intimidate or deter them from expressing their faith and attending places of worship.

“My hope is that people will not be afraid to go but will make a point to go,” Rich said. “If for no other reason than to say that we are not going to be scared away from doing what’s right.”

Editor's note: In a previous version, Logan Woodard's title is incorrect. His proper title is Hillel's Springboard Ezra Jewish Education Specialist. 

Jacklyn Walters is an assistant news editor and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com