Dear members of the John Carroll University Community,

“.עֵץ-חַיִּים הִיא, לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ; וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר”

“She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed” (Proverbs 3:18 NIV).

On Saturday morning, October 27th, 2018, a gunman opened fire on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a mere two hour drive from where we, as John Carroll students, faculty, and staff, live, eat, work, and pray.  On the morning of the shootings, in addition to the regularly scheduled Shabbat services, a circumcision, the rite of initiation into the Jewish faith, was being held.  The identified suspect, Robert Bowers, has been described as having anti-semitic motives, and as he entered the sanctuary of the synagogue, he yelled, “All Jews must die!”  As I sit here writing this, my keyboard covered in tears of mourning, I struggle to ask myself how I, as an individual, can respond to this senseless violence.  As I weigh my options, I am reminded of a statement given by Rabbi Yohanan in the Jerusalem Talmud.  “As long as there is life, there is hope” (Berachot 9:1).  Jews have, for the whole of our history, been oppressed, persecuted, and targeted.  From the Hellenists, to the Crusaders, and from the Nazis to the Soviets, civilization has made an effort to erase the Jews.  To this point, I will remind the world of one thing: we are still here, and we will always be here.  The Jewish people are not going anywhere, but instead, following events of sorrow, suffering, and crippling darkness such as those that took place in Pittsburgh this Saturday, we will only grow stronger.  It is our duty to preserve Jewish continuity, and to rise above violence and oppression.  But, where do we go from here?  Where do we start?  Well, we begin by remembering the victims whose memories should continue to serve as a blessing for generations to come.  They are named as:  Joyce Fienberg, 75.  Richard Gottfried, 65.  Rose Mallinger, 97.  Jerry Rabinowitz, 66.  Cecil Rosenthal, 59.  David Rosenthal, 54.  Bernice Simon, 84.  Sylvan Simon, 86.  Daniel Stein, 71.  Melvin Wax, 88.  Irving Younger, 69.  May God preserve their memories, may he speedily avenge their deaths, and may he bring peace of mind, peace of heart, and peace of soul to their friends and family.  If you have been affected by the Pittsburgh shooting, I encourage you to speak to a counselor at the JCU Counseling Center.  They can be reached at this number: (216) 397-4283.  While we will never cease mourning the victims of this violence, we need tangible solutions to preventing another incident from ever occurring again.  I propose a three step solution.  First, do your civic duty, and VOTE.  Change starts at the polls.  Do your research.  Look into each candidate’s platform on addressing gun violence, racism, and anti-Semitism.  Second, take time to get educated on the many faiths and cultures which enrich the beautiful fabric of our nation.  On-campus organizations such as the Center for Student Diversity & Inclusion and Campus Ministry are both filled with ample resources that allow members of the John Carroll community to grow in our understanding of faith and cultural experiences outside of our own.  Take advantage of the many opportunities that these departments provide.  Educate yourself.  This starts with something as simple as joining Hillel at a Shabbat dinner.  Finally, if you are Jewish, perform a mitzvah, a connection between you and God that draws His divine energy into this world.  Give tzedakah (charity) to the GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/tree-of-life-synagogue-shooting) set up to help rebuild areas of the synagogue affected by the shooting, light candles on Friday night, say the Shema, make a phone call to your parents reminding them of how much you love them.  Above all, remember that in a world that may persecute you and make you feel unwelcome or unimportant, you are loved by the God of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that love is ceaseless.  May we soon merit the coming of our Righteous Messiah, when “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9 NIV).  May this be speedily in our days, Amen.

With a heavy, yet hopeful, heart,

Nicholas Joseph Abdallah ’19

President, Hillel at JCU

Posted on October 30, 2018
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