Upon approaching the microphone, Jonathan Maxwell asked everyone to look around the room. “I’ve never seen something like this happen at Miami” the senior and president of Hillel said in reference to Oct. 25 #ShowUpForShabbat memorial and dinner. This Shabbat was the largest ever held at the university.
Although Shabbat meals regularly occur at the end of each week in Judaism, this particular Shabbat falls almost exactly on the one year anniversary of the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh, PA, where 11 people lost their lives during prayer.
After the shooting last year, #ShowUpForShabbat became a worldwide initiative to show support for the grieving Jewish community. People of all ages, religions and backgrounds expressed their sympathy and stood by the community in unity.
This year, Hillel and Chabad wanted to keep this initiative alive along with the memories of those who lost their lives. Both organizations opened their arms, inviting the Miami University community to participate in a special Shabbat service and memorialize alongside them.
The event drew in a diverse group of people about 150 strong. Although many attendees were Jewish, an equal part were professors, students and families who just wanted to show support.
Also in attendance were university President Greg Crawford and Renate Crawford, who have attended Shabbat dinners and other events hosted by Hillel and Chabad before.
“It was great to see the whole community really come together,” Renate Crawford said.
Shabbat observance began with a few words from the director of Hillel, Marcy Miller, and from both organizations’ presidents — Stephanie Birnbaum representing Chabad and Maxwell for Hillel. Rabbi and Director of Chabad Yossi Greenberg also spoke to the room, telling the story of how the tragedy left many people with questions, but no answers.
“We stand here tonight to honor victims, but to also stand as a community celebrating Judaism proudly,” Greenberg said.
Immediately following their words, students and members of the Jewish community read poetry and prayers in Hebrew and English. Throughout the readings and prayers, various community members lit one candle for every victim from the Tree of Life Synagogue.
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Junior Ethan Farber also spoke at the podium. Farber is a member of the Sinai Scholars Society, which is an organization that fosters conversation about Judaism on college campuses. Faber is also a Pittsburgh native who frequently attended the Tree of Life Synagogue before the shooting.
“The place that I thought was safe is gone forever,” Faber said. “We never expected for this to happen, but I am glad to be a part of the movement.”
Once the memorial came to a close and people began to say their goodbyes after dinner, Miller said the event was “truly remarkable.” Miller has worked at Miami for nine years and credits the Jewish community and its allies to the campus’ “open, warm, and friendly environment.”
For Miller, this #ShowUpForShabbat was a step in the right direction for the Jewish community and everyone surrounding it.
“If you never take the first step, you get nowhere,” Miller said. “We can't just sit back and let the days go by. [Nobody] wants to live in fear, and [nobody] should live in fear. We need to [work toward] understanding each other and continue fostering conversation.”