Their faces aglow with candlelight, more than 500 students stood in vigil and solidarity with the Jewish Community on Library Mall Monday night.
Days after a white supremacist murdered 11 people in Pittsburgh, in what is being considered the most deadly act of anti-Semitism on American soil, the UW-Madison campus is still reeling.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank condemned the violence as terrorism and called for love and unity to prevail in a time of fear.
“My sympathy and the sympathy of all of us are with the families and the community that suffered this attack. Vile acts of anti Semitism cannot be condemned strongly enough,” Blank said. “I am proud that our campus has such a vibrant Jewish culture and community, and we will do everything we can to support it. Please remember to care for each other in the days ahead.”
To honor the victims’ memory, UW-Madison professor Chad Alan Goldberg implored that community hold closely to each other and to life, and to mobilize their grief into acts of righteous giving and loving-kindness. Speaking to the Jews in the crowd, he asked that they take their Jewish heritage and identity — whatever those things meant to them — seriously as a way to heal and find strength in community.
“There is no one way to be Jewish. Everyone must find his or her own way. But I do know that none of them can be done alone; all of them involve community,” Goldberg said. “Whether we find that Jewish community or weather we create it, I hope that the horrific violence in Pittsburg will bring us closer to one another.”
Student leaders also denounced the violence and the hateful rhetoric that had inspired it.
“I am so gratified to see hundreds of people standing here tonight at a time when my cousins are being escorted into their jewish day school by police officers and at a time when my fellow jewish students are being begged by their parents to take off their Stars of David and their kippot,” said Julia Brunson, a student leader active in campus Hillel. “Hatred is a choice, but so is solidarity. So is unity.”