Dartmouth community gathers to remember victims and mourn anti-Semitic attack

by Mary Winters | 10/30/18 3:30am

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by Sarah Alpert / The Dartmouth Staff

While the remnants of Homecoming bonfire still litter the Green, it was ablaze with much smaller fires on Monday when a candlelit vigil was held in remembrance of the victims of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting. The vigil was organized by Dartmouth Hillel and co-sponsored by Chabad.

Dartmouth students and Hanover residents gathered at the center of the Green at 7 p.m. Candles were passed out and lit, and the interfaith service began with remarks from Rabbi Meir Goldstein, who focused on the themes of solidarity, unity and healing.

“All violence, all killing, is tragic, and the rise of anti-Semitism comes in the context of the rise of hate crimes in general,” Goldstein said. “Yet it would be disingenuous to the truth and disrespectful to their memories to ignore the anti-Semitism that motivated the deadly violence.”

Following the opening remarks, vigil participants sang “Oseh Shalom,” a Jewish prayer for peace. Many in attendance joined in song, while those unfamiliar with the lyrics bowed their heads respectfully.

Additional remarks were made by Rabbi Mark Melamut, Rabbi Daveen Litwin, Max Pivo ’22 and Jaclyn Eagle ’19. In their individual speeches, they reflected on their own reactions to the attack, their identities as Jews and how they are moving forward in the wake of the tragedy.

Additionally, Aadil Islam ’21, a member of Dartmouth’s Muslim Student Association, spoke at the event to demonstrate solidarity with the Dartmouth Jewish community.

A prayer for the injured was also offered. Later, attendants said Kaddish, a Jewish prayer said in times of mourning.

The vigil also featured Jewish songs in Hebrew and English on the themes of healing and perseverance. It concluded with another rendition of Oseh Shalom.

Before the event, Sophia Gawel ’22 stressed the importance of the gathering.

“I have friends who are from Squirrel Hill, so the fact that this could happen so close to the people that I love was really shocking to me, so I think it’s really important that we stand with them,” she said.

Following the event, Goldstein elaborated on some of the reasons for the vigil.

“Students expressed a real need to be able to grieve the tragedy of the shooting, so it was particularly important to come together as a greater community,” Goldstein said. “It was important to come together as a sign of solidarity, because we’re all in this together.”

Goldstein wanted the Dartmouth community to know, more generally, that many people across campus are hurting, and expressed hope that students would be compassionate toward each other.

“In particular, I would say, the synagogue shooting this last Saturday was the most significant act of anti-Semitism in United States history, so there’s a lot of folks in the Jewish community who are feeling particularly hurt, and scared, and unsafe right now so if you are friends with anyone, reach out and give them a little extra love and support,” he said.

Sarah Barnett ’21, vice president of membership of Dartmouth Hillel, expressed the organization’s desire to help Dartmouth heal. Barnett said that Hillel, Chabad and the greater Jewish community stand in solidarity to help people heal in whatever capacity they need and to honor those who were killed.

Barnett also commented on the Oct. 29 email sent out by College President Phil Hanlon. While the vigil was quite specific in its intent, the email sent by Hanlon had no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism.

“I got the impression that he just kind of had this layout of an email that he sends out whenever there’s a tragedy … it felt kind of cold, and not sympathetic, and I think he could’ve made just like a little bit more effort and made it personable,” she said.

In spite of this, Barnett found the vigil to be beautiful and touching. She emphasized that Hillel is open to the Dartmouth community as students heal.

“We’re a very supportive community, and we’re devastated to hear what happened, especially the story of the 97 year-old Holocaust survivor who survived the genocide of the Jews to be killed in 2018 because she was Jewish,” Barnett concluded.

Barnett was referring to Rose Mallinger, who was widely reported to have been a Holocaust survivor. However, news media later clarified that while Mallinger had indeed lived through the Holocaust period, she did not live in any of the areas where it took place.

Cayla Plotch ’19, a Chabad board member, found the vigil to be a meaningful vehicle for healing.

“It was nice to see a large group of both students and faculty and people from town show up and show their support to [the Jewish] community in that way,” she said.

Plotch also alluded to the importance of recognizing that this attack was rooted in anti-Semitism.

“I think that it’s important to realize that this event comes amongst a growing tide of anti-Semitism in our country and hate toward groups of people in general, and that we need to acknowledge that and work together to combat that,” she said.

It was this sentiment that Goldstein articulated in his remarks: “Tonight we stand in solidarity in our tears, in our disbelief, in our numbness, in our anger, and in our grief. Yet although we come as individuals, we stand united as community.”

Plotch is a member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff. Eagle is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.

Correction appended (Nov. 1, 2018): A previous version of this article failed to clarify that while Rose Mallinger lived through the Holocaust, she was not a "survivor" in the traditional interpretation of the word, as she had not lived in any of the areas where the Holocaust had taken place. The article has been updated to reflect this correction.