Skip to main content

CLASS students and professors of Jewish Studies organize campus vigil for victims of Pittsburgh shooting

By Toni Mooney Smith 713-743-9303

October 30, 2018

At 12 p.m. on Tuesday, October 30, a candlelight vigil was held in the courtyard of the Student Center to honor the 11 people killed last week in the mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue.

“This vigil makes us feel like we have a community behind us. It makes us feel strong,” said Barrie Skalsky, a junior in the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication. “I’m so happy with the turnout, and seeing all the people, friends, professors, and faculty from UH coming together to stand behind the Jewish community is truly amazing.”

"It’s important to recognize that anti-Semitism is real and alive in this country,” said Patricia Martinez, a senior in the Bauer College of Business. “I think our first step to healing would be more unity within the community, whether you’re Jewish or you’re not Jewish. I think it’s very important that if you see something, you say something. If you see something, do something about it rather than just walking away from it.”

According to recent reports, Saturday’s shooting could be the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

“When a hate crime occurs, it is not an isolated incident,” said Dr. Mark A. Goldberg, associate professor of history and director of the Jewish Studies Program. “This mentality does a major disservice to the victims and terrorized community. Because the expression of anti-Semitism in America is not new or isolated, Jewish communities across the country have been thinking about and, in some cases, preparing for such a tragedy. As a global, diasporic community, Jewish people across the country and world have been extending their support and resources to the Pittsburgh community.”

Rabbi Kenny Weiss, executive director Houston Hillel and lecturer in Jewish and religious studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, believes campus ministry gives our students a safe space to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

“In addition to today’s vigil, we have other opportunities for students to gather, and we keep in touch with individual students by texting, calling and asking if they need to talk,” said Rabbi Weiss. “I think the mood among our students reflects a sense of vulnerability that they feel after the attack, which is a feeling they’re not accustomed to in the United States. This is not supposed to be the place where terrorist attacks happen, where mass shootings target specific groups, like Jews praying on a Saturday morning in a synagogue. Our students are disturbed because the victims were targeted specifically for being Jewish, and because they were in a synagogue.”

“I very much appreciated the vigil today at UH. I want to thank Rabbi Kenny Weiss, Barrie Skalsky, Patricia Martinez, Emily Moses, and Houston Hillel for organizing and speaking at the vigil,” said Goldberg. “Saturday’s shooting was rooted in an exclusionary, white-nationalist vision of America, an imagined America that has never existed. One of the ways forward is to combat this hate by highlighting the real America – a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic society with individuals and communities that consistently rely on and support one another. That is what we saw today at the vigil.”

News Coverage

Photo Gallery