On the morning of October 27, a gunman opened fire in the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killing 11 Jewish people and wounding seven others, including four police officers. The suspect, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, has been indicted on 44 charges, including charges of hate crimes. Since then, countless vigils have been held across the country and the world in remembrance of the victims and those affected by the tragedy.
On Tuesday, October 30, renowned scholar Alan Rosen came to Holy Cross to give a lecture on the Holocaust. Rosen is a lecturer at Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem. He earned his Ph.D. in literature and religion at Boston University where he studied under renowned Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.
With Rabbi Rosen arriving at Holy Cross just three days after the shooting, the timing and relevance of his lecture did not go unnoticed. Rosen took the time to comment on the massacre and reflect on the senseless loss of life during his talk. He explained that the best thing people can do for the family and friends of the victims is to reach out by offering condolences and letting them know that there is a larger community that cares about them.
The central message of his lecture revolved around the obligation of being a witness to the Holocaust. Rosen remarked that in order to bear witness to the Holocaust, it is essential to keep the memories of the victims alive and to refuse to let them fade into oblivion. Rosen maintained that the individual stories and experiences are just as important as the collective story of the Holocaust, and that we must remember individuals as much as we remember the suffering of Jews as a whole during the Holocaust. Rosen noted that we have a similar obligation to those killed in the Pittsburgh attack, and that we must also bear witness to modern day hate crimes and expressions of anti-semitism.
On the same day that Rabbi Rosen gave his lecture at Holy Cross, the school held a vigil on the hoval. Organized by SGA and the Chaplain’s Office, the vigil was held in order to honor the memory of the victims and stand in solidarity with the Pittsburgh Jewish community and the larger Jewish community in the U.S. In an email, Holy Cross SGA expressed their hope that the vigil would “provide us with the opportunity to recommit ourselves to the values of human dignity and justice as we stand in solidarity with individuals who have been affected by these incidents.”
With the last of the funerals having taken place on November 2, the Jewish community in the United States must now decide how to collectively move forward. Rabbi Daniel Wasserman is the head rabbi at the Shaare Torah synagogue, a neighboring Squirrel Hill congregation in Pittsburgh. Speaking of the victims, he said in an interview with NPR, “In Hebrew we call them kedoshim, the holy ones, because they were killed solely and only because they were Jewish. Each of those people, to the murderer, represented the entirety of the Jewish people.”
Photo courtesy of Washington Post