On Monday, October 29, members of the Wellesley community gathered in the Multifaith Center to honor victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. The shooting occurred on October 27 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. 11 people were killed, and seven people were injured. At the memorial, Wellesley community members came together to pray and celebrate community. About 100 students, as well as faculty and local community members attended the event.
The service began with Rabbi Dena Bodian, who shared a few words with the attendees of the event. Then, faculty members and students shared profiles of victims of the shooting, revealing information like their names, ages, and a quick fact about them. Afterwards, student Sarah Young ’20 shared a poem she wrote with the group. Attendees also sang traditional Jewish prayers such as “Mi Sheberach” and the Mourner’s Kaddish together as a group.
Rabbi Dena Bodian has been grateful for the support the Jewish community has received. “The message I would like to share is that we are so grateful for the outpouring of support from all across the Wellesley community; students, staff, and faculty have been incredibly kind to the Jewish community during a very frightening time” says Bodian. “We recognize attacks on minority communities are becoming increasingly frequent. The week of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, there was also an attempted attack on a church with a predominantly African-American congregation.” Bodian continues, “And while it is disturbing to contemplate the increased security on Jewish institutions around the country, we recognize that police protection is a privilege which Jews have not always had, and that there are still communities today who cannot always rely on the police to protect them.”
In regards to the service in particular, Rabbi Bodian was surprised to see such a large turnout. “Having so many of my colleagues drop everything to attend really meant a great deal to me as a new member of the Wellesley community” says Bodian. “…[The service] was a really wonderful opportunity to pause, reflect, mourn, and comfort each other collectively.”
Sarah Young ’20, the student who shared a poem at the service, also stressed the importance of checking in on Jewish “sibs” during this time of uncertainty. “I hope that the service…remind[s] people that they need to check on their Jewish siblings…People always talk about being a good ally, but a big part of that is calling out antisemitism when they see it…and making sure their Jewish friends are okay after a tragedy like this.”
At the conclusion of the service, Hillel members Miriam McNerney ’21 and Diane Schrenzel ’20 were happy with the turnout at the event. “Having non-Jews come, having an opportunity to come together was really cool,” says McNerney.
“I felt like the service was good, it was what you expected it to be,” Schrenzel added. “ I also appreciated that many people came who were not Jewish.” Schrenzel concedes, “I feel like lots of faculty and staff came, but not as many students as I would have hoped for.”
However, McNerney and Schrenzel agree that Wellesley has done a lot to support the Jewish community during this time of mourning. “I feel seen, I feel supported, there’s been space to process” says McNerney. Both students note that Paula Johnson as well as the rest of the faculty have provided ample support for the Jewish community. “…Yes, Paula Johnson’s e-mail was absolutely phenomenal,” says Schrenzel. “Also, I know our Rabbi’s always super available whenever you want to talk to her, so long as you do it within the appropriate time frame” continues Schrenzel. “Overall, I think they have done something good and coherent and everyone seemed supportive.”