Pittsburgh Shooting Hits Home for Hillel

Irving Younger. Melvin Wax. Bernice Simon. Sylvan Simon. Jerry Rabinowitz. Joyce Feinberg. Richard Gottfried. Daniel Stein. Cecil Rosenthal. David Rosenthal. Rose Mallinger.

These are the names of the eleven people that lost their lives because of heartbreaking anti-Semitic violence in Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 27th. Now, weeks later, we still remember their names and mourn their absence. But a local community still hurting deserves our attention and support: Santa Barbara Hillel.

Image via Fox19

Hillel serves as a Jewish community center in Isla Vista where those practicing or supporting Judaism can gather to worship and find friendship. Hillel’s Student Board had a meeting scheduled on Sunday, October 28th. They were together the day immediately after the shooting took place.

“Everybody else was focused on what we should do now and the things that need to get done to bring the community together,” says Rita Silverman, a third-year student at the University of California, Santa Barbara and member of the Hillel Student Board. “I was on the bus and couldn’t stop myself from bawling my eyes out.”

Image via Jewish Journal

Responding to the President’s claim that armed security could have prevented the tragic situation, Silverman expressed genuine hurt at the insensitivity towards her community.

“That seemed very childish to me," she said. "I did not appreciate it. It made me angry,”

But Silverman does acknowledge the issue of gun violence is complex and gives credence to Trump’s argument.

“If there was security, it would have been different and it makes me sad,” she said. “I feel like in a utopian society, no security would be needed for a place of worship… At the same time, we need to accept the fact that there’s evil… that [security] is necessary.”

Image via Santa Barbara Hillel

On Tuesday, October 29th, three days following the shooting, Hillel and supportive students gathered around Storke Tower to memorialize and acknowledge the victims and the loss to the Jewish community. While I stood in solidarity with Rita and the Jewish community, I asked how she felt looking out at the crowd of unfamiliar faces.

“Honestly, it means everything,” she said. “We all need to support each other. We can only lift each other up, we can’t bring each other down.”

Even UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang, Congressman Salud Carbajal, and Senator Hannah Beth Jackson were in attendance, speaking to the crowd of supporters. The magnitude of their solidarity was not lost on Silverman and her fellow Hillel members. With the current political climate, The Hillel community needs and appreciates its allies now more than ever.

“It’s honestly amazing to get that kind of support, because even though we are a minority, it makes me feel equal,” Silverman said. “Even though we are less in number, we are just as important as the next person.”

Image via Yellow.Place