Hillel Honors 11 Killed in Pittsburgh

Hillel Hosts Shabbat In Solidarity


Hillel has focused on providing internal support for the college’s Jewish community in the aftermath of the shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27. Students created and installed an art exhibit in the Davis Family Library and hosted a Solidarity Shabbat last Friday.  The Shabbat was attended by approximately 60 students, staff and community members. 

On Wednesday, Oct. 31, a group of about 20 students produced the exhibit that was installed in the library on Monday, including a painting of a tree of life with photos of the 11 victims, a poster with 11 candles on it and reflections written by several students. The display is interactive, with colored paper and markers available so that anyone passing by can contribute their thoughts.

The student art that is now in the library hung on the wall of the Jewish Center in the FIC on the evening of Friday, Nov. 2, when Jewish and non-Jewish students alike gathered for company, prayer and food during the Solidarity Shabbat. The room was filled with the sound of singing and the scent of tacos, beans, rice and cookies prepared by Lila Sternberg-Shere ’21.5. When the food ran out due to the high attendance, Hillel members made extra pasta. 

Display in the Davis Library honors the victims of the Pittsburgh attack.

The crowd overflowed the cushioned benches on one side of the Jewish Center, and latecomers had to squeeze through additional rows of chairs in order to find seats. 

“For me, it’s nice in such a kind of scary and eye-opening time to feel like there’s a community,” Sternberg-Shere said.

During Shabbat, Rachel Horowitz-Benoit ’21, one of the evening’s leaders, explained that Shabbat is a time set apart from the rest of the week. “Shabbat isn’t quite a break in mourning, but it’s a time separated for joy,” she said. 

Cece Alter ’19.5, co-president  of Hillel, thanked the Jewish community as well as the non-Jewish attendees.

“Thank you to those who come every week, and will continue to show up despite those that want to intimidate us away from celebrating our faith,” Alter said during her introduction to the service. “Thank you to those who come sometimes, and wanted to be with this community tonight. Thank you to those who do not consider themselves part of the Jewish community, but have shown up for us today and in various other ways since the tragic shooting in Pittsburgh this past Shabbat.”

For me, it’s nice in such a kind of scary and eye-opening time to feel like there’s a community.”

— Lila Sternberg-Shere ’21.5

Alter described the personal impact that the shooting had on her, and concluded with a message echoed by many others throughout the evening.

“We must not let this silence us,” she said. “We will continue to pray, to celebrate our Jewish identity, to gather together. We will also continue to speak out for causes beyond those which affect us directly. We will welcome the stranger, we will work towards justice, we will repair the world. This is what Judaism has taught me, and I will not lose these messages in fear.”

Alter and Horowitz-Benoit both read each of the 11 victims’ names aloud during the service.

Sarah Asch ’19.5, who gave the d’var Torah, or Torah commentary, connected this week’s Torah portion to the shooting. She described her gratitude for the Muslim community’s  kindness toward the Jewish community following the tragedy, as well as their raising over $200,000 for Tree of Life Synagogue. Asch also thanked the non-Jewish students who had reached out to show their support during that time.

Alter explained that she had initially struggled to think of ways for the community to come together.

“That’s been a tricky thing for me this week, because everyone’s in a different place, everyone has their own feelings, has different things going on,” she said. “So it’s hard to say, ‘this is what the community needs.’” 

Alter and the rest of the Hillel board took inspiration from the Solidarity Shabbats happening across the country as a means of giving Jewish students the opportunity to come together while also welcoming non-Jewish students into the healing process.

We will welcome the stranger, we will work towards justice, we will repair the world. This is what Judaism has taught me, and I will not lose these messages in fear.”

— Cece Alter '19.5

Toward the end of the evening, after the Shabbat concluded and as dinner wound down, Sternberg-Shere gestured to the groups of lingering students still clustered around tables, talking and laughing. 

“People here probably aren’t talking about the shooting, but they’re being here and being Jewish, and just appreciating Judaism, and I think that’s pretty special,” she said. 

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About the Photographer

Michael Borenstein ’19 is Chief Photo Editor.
He has been with the photos team since his freshman fall and has served as an editor since the Spring...

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Hillel Honors 11 Killed in Pittsburgh