Hofstra remembers lives lost in recent acts of hate
In a theater filled with weeping eyes, bowed heads and pleas to do more, students and faculty gathered to remember the lives lost in shootings that occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in a Kroger grocery store in Louisville, Kentucky.
The memorial, titled “Stronger Than Hate,” was held in the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 31, and was co-sponsored by Hofstra Hillel, the Interfaith Center and the Office of Intercultural Engagement and Inclusion.
One week prior to the event, on Wednesday, Oct. 24, a man entered a Kroger grocery store and killed two people purely because of the color of their skin.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, 11 congregants of the Tree of Life Synagogue were shot while attending prayer, making it the deadliest act of anti-Semitism ever committed in the U.S.
Hofstra University Provost Gail Simmons gave a speech recounting growing up in Pittsburgh.
She remembered shopping at Kroger and driving around Squirrel Hill with her family. When she heard about the murders that took place the week of Oct. 22, she was shattered.
“Suddenly the sweet memories of my childhood were twisted into scenes of death. Not simply death, but death by hate,” Simmons said.
The names of the 13 victims were read aloud during the ceremony. Junior journalism major Melissa Berman said when the names of all 13 victims were read, she broke down.
“I started crying. It hits home because you hear these names and it’s someone’s father, grandfather, brother, son. It’s a life,” Berman said. “It’s just so tragic that they lost their life doing what God has [them] do.”
Simmons told those in attendance that people need to see the light in each other and that everyone should try to connect with one another. “We are one with each other and we are one with the planet,” Simmons said.
Simmons’ hope that students would unite and work together was later echoed by Rabbi Dave Siegel, executive director of Hofstra Hillel.
“If we leave this room right now and think to ourselves, ‘Oh, that was nice,’ but go on our merry way, have we truly honored these victims?” Siegel asked.
He suggested that the Hofstra community do three things: have fun, don’t live in fear and do more.
“Personally, I need to do more. Today I am committed to doing more,” Siegel said. “When you see or hear something that is wrong, say something.”