By Hannah Lazarus
On Oct. 27 at 10 a.m., the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in U.S. history took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. An anti-Semitic man by the name of Robert Bowers opened fire during Saturday Sabbath services at the Tree of Life Synagogue, killing eleven and injuring six.
Even though it happened in Pittsburgh, Jewish communities around the world responded to the attack, including Montreal’s very own Hillel.
“Hillel Montreal is an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of Jewish students by helping to maintain a strong Jewish presence on campus through participation in school life, diverse leadership opportunities for students, and cultural events such as culinary activities or holiday-themed exhibits,” explained Hillel Dawson’s President Ian Langleben.
Hillel Montreal took it upon itself to organize events to honour the victims of the shooting in schools across the city, including Dawson, Marianopolis, and McGill.
Dawson showed solidarity in numerous ways. On Oct. 29, members of the organization came to school wearing a blue item of clothing and posted images of the victims with their names on television screens throughout the school. The following day, the organization held a vigil in the atrium, which consisted of a poster where students and faculty members could express their sympathy for the Jewish community’s loss on post-it notes, as well as mourning prayers and a charity box whose proceeds will be donated to The Tree of Life synagogue.
Haim Bouhadana, Vice-President of Hillel Dawson, expressed how the vigil surpassed all of his expectations. “So many people came that we didn’t even have any more space to add them onto the poster, and at the end of the day, to our amazement, the box of donations was full. What touched me the most was a student, not even Jewish, who started crying.”
In addition to Hillel’s role in commemorating the Pittsburgh victims, synagogues all over Montreal did their part as well. As a gesture of solidarity, members of the Jewish community attended special Sabbath services to memorialize the Pittsburgh victims, where they gathered and listened to speeches from spiritual leaders about the importance of unity within the Jewish community. Similarly, Dawson and Marianopolis held their own vigils and McGill partook in a moment of silence to commemorate the victims of the shooting.
These gestures made it clear that this attack and any other on Jewish communities in the past, present, and future only makes them stronger.