Community members gathered across faiths at UMass to honor Pittsburgh victims

Oct 30, 2018

More than 150 people gathered at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to mourn and honor the 11 victims of the October 27 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.

Rabbi Jacqueline Satlow, UMass Dartmouth’s Director of the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, led the vigil on October 30, which included speakers from a variety of different faiths.

“We mourn together over this senseless act of violence and destruction,” Satlow said.

Chancellor Robert Johnson emphasized the importance of community and kindness in the face of tragedy.

“This is a place of inclusion,” Johnson said.

He reminded the crowd of the power that small interactions and moments of kindness can have to turn someone’s day around.

“When evil prevails, we must rise up and not be a silent majority,” Johnson said.

Dr. Donna Lisker, the Chancellor’s Chief of Staff, said she was speaking as a Jew and a third-generation Pennsylvanian. She reminisced about her childhood congregation and the community she grew up in.

“You would rejoice and mourn with your community at every milestone,” Lisker said.

She felt many things during her time in that congregation, but she never felt afraid for her life, even though she was very aware of the Holocaust and the history of anti-Semitism.

“It didn’t feel like it could happen here, but it did,” Lisker said, linking the Pittsburgh shooting to other mass shootings in recent history. “I mourn for the children who have run out of places to feel safe,” Lisker said.

Pastor Damgaard, the campus’ Protestant Chaplain, offered a prayer for events that haven’t yet happened and to prevent future acts of violence.

Several of the speakers said that an attack on any group is a threat to all.

Dr. Ilana Offenberger, a history professor who has dedicated her career to studying the Holocaust and genocide prevention, invoked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., saying “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Offenberger reminded the audience of the immense power of words to cause harm and to create community.

“As we grieve as individuals, let us also remember the power of friendship and community,” Offenberger said.

Musicians wrapped up the event by playing “America the Beautiful.” UMass’ gospel choir sang “We Are the Children.”