Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 30, 2023

Religious leaders urged those who attended the vigil at the Beach on Monday to stand in solidarity with other minority groups targeted by hate crimes.

Eleven people were killed when a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday. In the wake of the shooting, Hopkins and Baltimore community members gathered to grieve for the Jewish community and those affected by the violence.

Over 100 students, faculty members and staff attended a candlelight vigil on the Beach on Monday in remembrance of the 11 victims. Attendees were invited to light candles and join various religious leaders in prayer and song. 

Hopkins Hillel and Campus Ministries organized the vigil to help provide a supportive space for the Hopkins community. Rabbi Eric Abbott, a senior Jewish educator at Hopkins Hillel, expressed the importance of embracing positivity in the wake of tragedy.

“It’s important to show positivity, to show love, to show hope, to come together and say we stand up against this. We have certain values that go against everything that the shooter stands for, that these people who espouse hate stand for,” he said. “We just want to show that there’s certain things that conquer all. Love is one of them, hope is one of them, community is one of them. By being here together, we can make a difference.”

Abbott appreciated that many diverse communities rallied together to support those affected by the shooting. 

“It’s beautiful and wonderful that not only were there so many different types of Jews represented, but there were so many people from the interfaith community here, and it’s just so wonderful that we all came together,” he said.

University President Ronald J. Daniels addressed the crowd, speaking both as the University president and a member of the Jewish community. He expressed concern that incidents like these have been occurring too frequently in society. He believes, however, that people must stand up to hate, especially after acts of violence similar to this one.

“This is a moment when we must reaffirm our commitment to standing firm in our belief that hate has no place in our country, that violence of this character has no place and that we will speak out loudly, passionately and with conviction against those would challenge that belief,” Daniels said. 

Junior Jenna Movsowitz said that one of the reasons that she attended the vigil was that she is very involved in Jewish life on campus.

“It was really upsetting to hear the news on Saturday and feel so connected to it, but also see it as a larger national issue,” she said. “It feels very personal since we’re such a small, close-knit community, especially at Hopkins.”

Movsowitz added that this shooting should be recognized as a hate crime and an indication of the prevalence of anti-Semitic views that exist in the country.

“I hope that people see that this is not just a social justice issue or something that should be politicized. Instead, it was a hate crime, and we need to recognize that that exists and see how we can eradicate that,” she said.

She added that she hopes different minority groups will stand in solidarity with one another.

“All these minorities aren’t so different deep down, so hopefully we can unify,” Movsowitz said. 

Similarly, University Chaplain Kathy Schnurr called on the Hopkins community to support one another in the wake of the tragedy.

“Our hope is that as we remember and pay tribute, we are reminded that we are deeply connected at the core of our shared humanity. That which touches one of us touches all of us,” she said. “We are divided, exhausted and frightened. It can be tempting, in the midst of all this vitriol and violence, to allow fear, revenge and hatred to be our models. But we are so much better than that.”

The previous day, Baltimoreans came together to voice their opposition to fascism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy at the Rally Against Hate at the Baltimore Holocaust Memorial. 

Several organizations hosted Sunday’s rally, including Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebel, a spiritual community dedicated to social justice; the Baltimore chapter of the International Socialist Organization (ISO); and Baltimore Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab oppression. Cantor George Henschel, a Baltimore community member, led the group in song and prayer. 

Jonah ben Avraham, a member of ISO and Jewish Voice for Peace, helped organize the event. He stressed the importance of standing in solidarity with other minority communities in the wake of tragedies, such as the Pittsburgh shooting. 

“We desperately need a movement in this city and in this country that’s going to oppose the kinds of far right white supremacy and all of the bad things that are going to lead to continued violence,” he said. “We have so many potential allies out there, and we are so much stronger if we are actually able to build a movement across identity lines to oppose the systems that are perpetuating oppression and exploitation.” 

In addition to this call to action, Avraham aimed for the rally to give those affected by the shooting a place to mourn.

Zainab Chaudry, the director of Maryland Outreach for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), discussed the importance of defending religious freedom at the rally.

“We need action. Religious freedom is under attack in our country as we speak. To our Jewish friends, you are not alone. We stand with you, we stand with your community,” she said. “I hope that people leave today feeling more reassured knowing that they have allies who are standing in solidarity with the Jewish community, that people understand that it’s our collective responsibility to push back against hateful rhetoric and that we are only as strong as we are united.”

Avraham then invited audience members to come forward to speak. 

Ricki Henschel, a Baltimore community member who attended the event, spoke about her experiences in the wake of the shooting. She, like many others, called for solidarity and political action to incite change. 

“I was devastated, and I felt the need to join with community, not just my own Jewish community but the broader community. It was very important to see those from other faiths here with us — because the attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” Henschel said. “Vote. It’s the only thing we can do to create change.”

Lutheran Pastor Jason Chesnut said that he felt it was necessary to show support for those impacted by the shootings, especially due to perceived ties between Christianity and white supremacy.

“It’s important to be a visible sign in solidarity with our Jewish cousins, especially as a Lutheran. Martin Luther has really problematic anti-Semitic writings,” he said. “Christianity, a lot of times, has partnered with white supremacy, and it hasn’t stood up against it.”

He also stressed the role of the current political climate in inciting white supremacy and violence. 

“Just a week ago, our current president said he was a nationalist, and then we have this spate of basically white supremacist violence,” he said. “Voting is so important, and white supremacy is baked into the foundation of our country, so it’s going to take a lot to stand up against that. We have to keep showing up and keep fighting against this.”

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