Candlelit vigil held on campus to honor victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Bridget Janis, Staff Reporter

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A mass shooting occured at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Saturday, Oct. 27. A total of 11 Jews were killed. Oakland University Student Congress, the Jewish Student Organization (JSO)/Hillel and several other student faith organizations collaborated to put together a vigil for the victims of the shooting on Thursday, Nov. 1.

“Two brothers; a real estate agent; a grandfather; a great-grandmother; a husband and his wife; a primary care physician, who was one of the very first to treat HIV patients; a researcher; a dentist, who was in an interfaith marriage; and just a regular guy,” University President Ora Hirsch-Pescovitz said during the vigil. “All of these people were doing just regular, ordinary, normal things as we know, that they did every shabbat, every sabbath.”

Those killed were 71-year-old Daniel Stein, 75-year-old Joyce Feinberg, 65-year-old Richard Gottfried, 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, 66-year-old Jerry Rabinowitz, 59-year-old Cecil Rosenthal, 54-year-old David Rosenthal, 84-year-old Bernice Simon, 86-year-old Sylvan Simon, 88-year-old Melvin Wax and 69-year-old Irving Younger.

“[The vigil is] to remember the people that we lost in the Pittsburgh shooting and we want to make sure everybody has an opportunity to mourn as a community,” said Ashley Roszko, president of the Student Jewish Organization.

The event was hosted by OUSC Diversity and Inclusion Director Destinee Rule. Speakers included Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Glenn McIntosh, Student Body President Ryan Fox and Director of Jewish Studies Mike Pytlik, among others.

“This is Oakland University responding to what happened in Pittsburgh over the weekend and supporting our OU Jewish community,” Office for Student Involvement Director Jean Ann Miller said. “But the Muslim and the Christian and the Jewish faiths are all coming together, and being really supportive and reflective to what happened.”

The event was intended to take place at Elliott Tower, but due to poor weather conditions, the location was moved to the Winter Garden on the main level of the Oakland Center.

“It’s the right thing to do because this is affecting everyone,” Miller said. “We just want to make sure that Oakland University is being supportive of the Jewish community, not just at Oakland University, but outside Oakland University as well.”

Once Pescovitz was done speaking, she brought everyone together to link arms and sing songs led by a song leader. One song, “Oseh Shalom,” was in Hebrew, while the other song, “Amazing Grace,” was in English.

“It reflects the diversity of why we were here today, what we were supporting, what we were reflecting on,” Miller said. “It’s the blending of what the world is all about, and it’s so everybody understands the similarities and differences, and getting rid of the hate. And what better way to do that than through music?”

To conclude the event, all attendees held lit candles and stood in silence while Elliott Tower rang 12 times, 11 for the the lives lost, and the 12th for all those injured and personally affected.

“We hope this brings awareness to the importance of a community lifestyle,” Roszko said. “Even though it happened a couple states away, all the Jews are still going to be together as one group, because that’s our whole philosophy of our religion.”