McCosh 50 was filled Monday evening as members of the Princeton community gathered to commemorate the 11 lives lost in the Oct. 27 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“This is an incredible showing of solidarity,” said Rochelle Calhoun, vice president for campus life. “The Princeton community will always stand up for our collective humanity.” The vigil, moved indoors because of rain, was held as students returned to campus after fall break last week.Isabel Segel ’22, a Pittsburgh resident, reflected on the challenge her community is facing. Segel grew up in Squirrel Hill, the neighborhood where the attack took place. “My first reaction was primal,” she said, recalling the phone call to her parents, who were only a few houses away from the synagogue at the time of the shooting. Even after she knew her family was safe, she realized her community would never be the same. “I can no longer attend services without strategizing the nearest escape route,” she said. “Not even my picturesque neighborhood is immune from acts of hate.”
Dean of the College Jill Dolan, also a Pittsburgh native, grew up a block away from the Tree of Life synagogue. Dolan noted that in many places of sanctuary, people now need protection. Even for the vigil, she said, security guards were stationed at the entrances of McCosh Hall to protect the safety of attendees. “We must continue to reach and to teach and to learn from one another,” she said. “The world is nowhere near as good as it could be right now.”
Rabbi Eitan Webb, director of Princeton’s Chabad House, led a moment of silence. Last weekend, when the shooting took place, he said there was “the silence of simply not knowing what to say.” But now, he called on the audience to join in “a hopeful silence” and to let this moment serve as “a prelude to action.” Rabbi Ira Dunne of the Center of Jewish Life read the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer for the dead.
The vigil offered community members the opportunity to come together and reflect on the importance of unity in a time of increased divisiveness. Koleinu, Princeton’s Jewish a cappella group, led the audience in song, and community members were invited to attend special commemorative services Nov. 9 at the Princeton Center for Jewish Life.
Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of the Center for Jewish Life, gave closing remarks. “We will not let the events in Pittsburgh weaken our resolve to discover a new path toward justice and equality for all Americans, without exception.”