University of Connecticut students honored the 11 lives lost in Saturday’s shooting of a Pittsburgh synagogue by prayer, candle lighting and the motivation to do good deeds at the Homer D. Babbidge Library Wednesday night.
Organized by the UConn Jewish group Chabad, Rabbi Shlomo Hecht said the vigil, held in addition to Sunday’s vigil at UConn Hillel, was a good way to bring the student community together in this time of loss.
“(It is) to inspire one another to bring more light into the world. This is the only way to dispel darkness,” Hecht said. “(It) gives students an opportunity to express their true good in this confusing time.”
During the vigil, students came up one-by-one to light 11 candles, each in honor of one of the deceased. The candles symbolize the yearning for eternal life and showing what they left behind, according to Hecht.
Four of the approximately 20 students in attendance gave their personal accounts of where they were during the tragedy and why they decided to come to the vigil.
Hecht emphasized that in the aftermath of a tragedy it is important to not lose sight of who one is and to try and do good deeds to make the world a better place. Any small thing, including something as easy as making a post on social media, can make an impact, he said.
“When you look at a news feed, it makes a difference when everyone is posting,” Hecht said.
Gabrielle Sharbin, Chabad president and fifth-semester allied health major, said the night was an opportunity to express how to change the wrong in the world.
“It’s important for Jewish and UConn students to acknowledge that anti-Semitism and prejudice still exists and that we speak out against it,” Sharbin said.
Daniel Babylov, a third-semester actuarial science and finance major, said he came to the vigil to help cope with Saturday’s events.
“(I came) to feel like a part of the community and to come to terms with it,” Babylov said.
Celine Glanzberg, a first-semester speech, language and hearing sciences major, said she came because it is important to respond to recent events.
“(I came) to talk about the tragedy because I feel a responsibility, especially (since) it’s important to respond to the hatred and anti-Semitism in society,” Glanzberg said.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, a gunman entered a busy Pittsburgh synagogue and opened fire, which killed 11 people and injured six others, according to CBS news.
After exchanging gunfire with police, 46-year-old Robert Bowers was taken into custody. Before the shooting, he was known to post anti-Semitic rants on social media, according to USA Today.
The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, told CBS news that the shooting is likely the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in U.S. history, and has sparked mourning and vigils across the country both within and outside of the Jewish community.
In addition to paying respects, Hecht ended the vigil by saying everyone should do a good deed, choose a mitzvah (a good deed done from religious duty) and add light to the world to honor the deceased. A small good deed is better than anything evil, he said.
“A little bit of light, a little bit of positivity, (such as) saying hi to someone in the halls, the dormitories, in the classroom or someone who is having a hard day, give them a pat of the shoulder and say ‘let’s have a coffee.’ Let’s do something positive together,” Hecht said. “These are our moments of adding light. For those who feel that darkness is the way to go...may our ways of light will prevail.”
To see what others beyond the UConn community have done in light of recent events, visit the website www.mitzvah4pittsburgh.com or see the hashtag #MITZVAH4PITTSBURG.
Rachel Philipson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.