By Jean Yi
More than 100 Stanford students, staff and alumni gathered at White Plaza on Sunday to mourn the 11 victims of a Saturday morning shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The shooting was characterized as a hate crime by the Justice Department.
The event, organized by the Jewish Student Association (JSA), featured student speakers and organizers, as well as Rabbi Jessica Kirschner of Hillel, Rabbi Dov Greenberg and President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.
Both Jewish and non-Jewish students spoke at the open mic about their response to the shooting. They talked about their experiences with antisemitism, connecting to their Jewish identity and encouraging allyship with other marginalized groups — including immigrants, Muslims and transgender people. The event ended with the recitation of the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning.
As he observes Shabbat and does not use electronics during the Jewish sabbath, JSA president Jacob Kaplan-Lipkin ’19 did not hear about the news until Saturday night.
“[JSA Vice President of Outreach Courtney Cooperman] was probably the first person I called … and pretty quickly, Courtney and I went to plan something,” he said.
He and other Jewish students at the vigil described calling friends and family to make sure they were safe and to express the grief and fear they had felt.
“Of course this needed to happen. There was no question about holding a vigil,” Cooperman said. She pointed to the support of the Jewish organizations Chabad and Hillel at Stanford as integral to making the event happen.
Several people connected the tragic shooting to the murder of two black people at a Kroger in Kentucky last Wednesday. Others pointed to a more general climate of bigotry, especially in the wake of the 2016 election. This included actions taken by the Trump administration that have been widely criticized by civil rights activists, including detaining migrant children separately from their parents and proposing to legally define sex as determined at birth.
Goldie Grinberg, Vice President of Jewish Observances, expressed gratitude at having the administration’s support for the event.
“It’s amazing to have the turnout that we did,” she said. “It’s more than we expected, both from the Jewish community, other faith communities and frankly, just from students in general.”
Cooperman said she was surprised and gladdened by the outpouring of solidarity.
“It meant the world to me to see so much of Stanford’s campus show up to this,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it takes tragedies to bring people together, but we hope that this will initiate greater partnerships across campus, that we’ll be continuing to work with other communities and uplifting each other in difficult moments.”
Contact Jean Yi at jeanyi ‘at’ stanford.edu.