New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Students Mourn and Reflect at Vigil for Poway Synagogue Shooting

Students and New Yorkers gathered under the Washington Square Arch on Tuesday to mourn the victims of the Poway Synagogue shooting.
A student speaks at the vigil on Tuesday to commemorate and mourn the victims of Saturday’s Poway Synagogue shooting. (Photo by Min Ji Kim)

As the sun began to set over Washington Square Park, a group of approximately 75 students and New Yorkers gathered in a circle under the arch to commemorate the victims and those affected by the attack on a synagogue that occurred near San Diego last Saturday.

The vigil, hosted by the NYU Bronfman Center and Chabad House Bowery, reflected on the shooting at Chabad of Poway, which resulted in the death of a 60-year-old woman and the injuries of three others. Rabbis and students emphasized the resilience of those in the congregation and the Jewish community as well as the continued need to act with kindness and strength in the face of hate.

Steinhardt first-year Nicole Eichner grew up in San Diego and was part of the congregation at Chabad of Poway. She reflected on the message that Poway congregation leader Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein has been preaching in interviews, a message that emphasized the need for the community to stand together and grow from this tragedy.

“The message that Rabbi Goldstein sent and continues to send our way, is that we need to battle darkness with light,” Eichner said at the vigil. “No matter how dark the world is, we need to think that a little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness.”

This is the third vigil held on campus in the past month and a half, with students gathering earlier in April and March to reflect on the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka and the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand. Rabbi Dov Yonah Korn of the Chabad House Bowery noted the frequency of vigils.

“I don’t want to be gathering anything anymore, all of us together, to think about tragedy,” Korn said at the vigil. “You had quite a few of these in the past month — tragedies of many communities.”

Stern senior Philipp Tereshenko grew up in Poway. His family attends the Chabad that was attacked, but on Saturday, his dad decided to stay home. For Tereshenko, the vigil served as a demonstration of the power of community and moving forward.

“For me, the thing I see the most is the unwithering resistance and the tenacity of the Jewish community finds in itself and time and time again to stand up and be unified,” Tereshenko said. “Other people also show solidarity with every single member of the Jewish community, no matter what their background is, or where they come from — there’s always a sense of greater community.”

CAS first-year Bracha Eisenstat said that although she is not from San Diego, she appreciated the speakers’ focus on the solidarity of the Jewish community.

“They pointed out that there’s chabads everywhere around the world,” Eisenstat said. “It’s so true. Chabads are always giving back and I really feel a part of their community even though this was in San Diego.”

Korn spoke of the heroism of Lori Gilbert Kaye, the woman killed in the shooting. He expressed that her willingness to help her community is reflected on a larger scale.

“We are all Lori’s, we are all in this world doing good deeds,” Korn said. “That is the Jewish message of life. True life cannot be killed.”

Rabbi Nikki Deblosi from the Bronfman Center discussed how to look forward in the wake of such tragedy, not only in San Diego, but in past anti-Semitic attacks like the one that occurred in Pittsburgh last fall.

“We proclaim our sadness, but we proclaim even louder our strength,” Deblosi said at the vigil. “We proclaim our anger, but we proclaim even louder our solidarity.”

CAS first-year Avigail Rockland told WSN that attending the vigil made her feel like she was taking action against the hate of the attack.

“I think it’s easy to feel stuck and like kind of helpless in these kinds of situations, you just don’t know what you can do to help,” Rockland said. “And like this is a very minor act but it’s better than nothing.”

To end the vigil, attendees sang and clapped along to the song “Am Yisrael Chai” which translates to, “The people of Israel live.”

Email Bethany Allard at [email protected].

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