One of University of Redlands’ own, Lauren Simon, lost her grandparents in the Oct. 27 attack at the Tree of Life Congregation in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. She spoke at an on-campus event honoring the 11 lives lost, standing up straight as she gave an emotional but moving speech. Simon is the President of University of Redlands’ Hillel organization.
“I feel safest when I’m doing Jewish things. The people murdered were at Saturday morning service … I now fear doing Jewish things,” Simon said.
Lamenting that shootings have become normalized in America, Simon called for Jewish, African-American, Muslim and all minority communities to support one another. Reminding us that similar shootings have happened before, and that little has been done in response, Simon said that while this person targeted Jews, anyone can be a victim of hate.
“When one community suffers, we all suffer,” Simon said.
Rabbi Lindy Reznick opened the discussion by expressing her appreciation for the turnout from the Redlands community. She encouraged victims of hate—be it Jews, Muslims or people of color—to band together and oppose all forms of hatred.
Reznick called for a moment of silence to “think about the love that you have to offer both our Jewish community in Pittsburgh but also Jews all over the world who are afraid right now.”
The microphone was opened up to students and the Redlands community for people to say what was on their minds.
The Director for Hillel of the Inland Empire, Harry Waksberg, said that despite taking his job recently, he wasn’t surprised by the community’s widespread support that day. Waksberg described the appearance of an “endless cycle of violence” throughout history, as Jews are no strangers to suffering. But he reminded the community, in what seemed like a universal theme of the discussion, that nobody should be afraid to ask questions about Judaism.
Bulldogs also had the support of the Redlands Police Chief and other officers. Travis Martinez, the assistant Chief of Redlands Police Department, emphasized that acts of hate, big or small, should be reported to Police Officers, as well as their ongoing collaboration with U of R’s Public Safety Officers.
Another theme of the evening was the importance of coming together to combat prejudice in the world. A professor named Sharon Oster stressed that we can’t afford to be apathetic if we aren’t a member of the affected group of a hate crime. Oster recalled being asked by a student in class about how events like the Holocaust come to happen. The belief that “it can’t get worse” is eventually disproven as it becomes too late.
“It happens like this. It happens that we slowly accept what happens around us because it isn’t happening directly to us,” Oster said.
Liran Koropitzer, a senior at the U of R, always saw her Jewish identity as a source of pride, realizing recently that the Star of David on the back of her Hillel shirt could be seen as a symbolic target on her back. Another member of Hillel described the potential for fear to go in two directions—progress or hatred.
“I could hate the people that are around me that show anti-semitic behaviors, or homophobia or transphobia … but we should go into progression [instead],” Madeline Gibson said.
Several students repeated the great show of support expressed by people of all faiths who showed up to the gathering. The appearance of many students and alumni seemed to consolidate the calls for a united front against hatred.
The evening was concluded with a candlelight vigil at the Chapel.
Photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer Tara Takenaka