Question 2 (Student/youth reactions)

What were some of the student/youth responses/reactions that you saw and/or experienced?

I’m thankful to have had my sorority sisters there for support. As a member of the Jewish sorority, this tragedy hit us harder than most other non-Jewish students. We got together afterward to talk and feel safe, and we went to the vigil in Squirrel Hill. Many people responded by starting fundraisers to benefit Tree of Life, but it only felt significant to the Jewish students. Lots of crying among the Jews, but when the news got out that the shooting was going on, non-Jewish students did not understand the magnitude of the shots fired.

During the incident, a lot of students and friends of mine were just asking our fellow Jewish friends if they were okay or if they needed to talk about the event or were safe. There was a student-led vigil shortly after the Tree of Life shooting as well as some demonstrations a few days/weeks afterward supporting the synagogue and first Amendment right of practicing religion.

My roommate and I were taking a bus through Squirrel Hill to go grocery shopping when I got a panicked phone call from an old high school classmate who also went to Pitt. She’d seen me post that I was going grocery shopping in Squirrel Hill and we’d had no idea the shooting was happening the next few streets over as the bus passed through. She called to warn me even though we hadn’t spoken since high school.

Some of the students that I worked with as a student teacher were the organizers of the vigil held the night of the shooting. Additionally, in the weeks following the shooting, students at Allderdice expressed concerns to staff that they felt that the school was not responding appropriately to the tragedy and not letting the students share their perspectives in a group setting. Instead, the official PPS policy in the weeks following the shooting was that students wishing to speak about the tragedy were directed towards the grief counselor made available to them.

My cousin almost went to Tree of Life that day, having greatly enjoyed Shabbat services there on another weekend. So he, and his friends and our family, all had a major “close call” moment. Some of my peers were nearby and/or were mortally scared, but either struggled to elaborate or chose not to elaborate at all when we spoke about it. One of my Jewish peers had a brief fit of self-loathing for her Jewishness.

I saw a big rally after the shooting, people calling for gun restrictions and stricter background checks. People were really upset and we all wore shirts commemorating the event. There was a vigil held for the shooting later in the month.

A lot of students seemed to be shaken up by the “gun free zone” and having a mass shooting near campus. How do we know that we are truly protected?

Fear, anger, grief about the incident
But pride in the citizens’ reactions and heroism.

Our Hillel and Chabad had a joint vigil underneath the tent in Schenley Plaza to remember those whom had passed. Seeing all Jews, and even some non-Jewish students come together made me like my faith had a lasting impact on those who might be Christian, Catholic, etc. Even the week after, the University of Pittsburgh hosted a university-wide vigil for all to attend. Seeing everyone around campus, including our Chancellor who attended made us feel empowered to take a stand against this hatred, and say that we are “Stronger Than Hate”!

Many campus organizations and individuals banded together to raise money for the families affected and increase diversity and spread love on campus.

I saw the community come together despite differences. People were very supportive of each other and the mayor, whom I’d never met sounded like he wanted to enact real change. The University of Pittsburgh where I go to school had shirts made and had a huge turnout for a vigil.

People were immediately reaching out to each other, making sure those they knew were okay. Clubs were organizing vigils and offering support.

Being with the band and handling the chaos, the day of the shooting, my 300 peers around me seemed upset once we started to hear the extremity of what happened. But, we had to keep marching on as a band. I don’t think most of us processed how we were feeling until after the game was all said and done and we were on a bus ride back to campus. Afterwards, the bandsmen began to really step up and support our Jewish friends and raise money for Tree of Life. It was appropriate grieving then a mission to help.

Student responses were incredible. So many people were showing an immense level of support for a place they hadn’t even heard of before the tragedy. There were fundraisers all over to help out the victims and the Tree of Life community.

Why did Pitt spend copious resources to offer support/counseling for students and release statements of mourning and solidarity in the aftermath of an off-campus tragedy, while they refused to even acknowledge Alina Sheykhet’s death, let alone offer support or advocate for justice? Because one situation gives them the opportunity to virtue signal, and the other is unsavory to donors and prospective students. Fuck Pitt.

The students who were from out of state or Eastern PA expressed sadness and grief as they had seemingly for any other horror story about mass shootings in the US. For those of us who were from Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs, this event shocked us – not here, not in our city.

A conversation I have had with many others is what the reaction would have been like if this horrible act of violence happened to a mosque instead of a synagogue in Pittsburgh. I think the media attention would have been very similar in reporting on the incident, as well as the outcry of support. However, I do not believe (for example) the Pittsburgh Penguins would have worn the symbol of the star and crescent like they wore the star of David on their jerseys all season. Islamophobia isn’t seen as big of a deal as antisemitism in this country.

Many people were scared now, especially anybody who was Jewish. seemed to be more people scared than sad.

My friend goes to Chatham and she knew some of the people in the synagogue. There was a lot of crying from her. For everyone else, it was sadness. Not much anger until a few days later. Just genuine sadness for people we’ve never met.

On Pitt’s campus vigils, gun violence awareness rallies, protests, and art exhibits were held to raise awareness, create a safe space for grieving, and offer support. The Schools Say Enough Art Exhibit was very impactful to me, mostly because it was held on Pitt’s campus and I had a hand in making in happen through the Pitt Green Fund. This honored victims of gun violence through art put together by a Jewish artist, with a special emphasis on the victims of the Tree of Life shooting.

I saw more people wearing yarmulkes, being proud of their heritage, in a place that had just shown its hate. In a place where they were vulnerable, they sought to show their strength and bravery. We all hope there is no other act, but they were brave enough to be proud.

A lot of people didn’t realize how it affected the Jewish community at large. I have friends in Texas who felt affected and they don’t even live in Pittsburgh. Some of my classmates had parties that night and pretended to care the next week and moved on quickly after. I watched the news on campus use it as something to report on and then moved past it. I saw non-Jews who didn’t live in squirrel hill mark themselves safe, even if they had no reason too. I saw fake responses from the University.

Almost everyone was in shock, however there was a strong outpouring of love shortly after the shooting. I felt closer to my friends, because all of us had just gone through something awful.

I remember receiving copious amount of emails from student organizations that said they were holding safe spaces for students. A lot of organizations cancelled their meetings that week. Other than that I am not really sure.

Everyone worked really hard to make sure everyone was safe and comfortable, whether they were impacted or not. Seeing #cityofsteel and things of that nature truly made such a difference in making sure those impacted knew that the people of Pittsburgh, and especially Pitt students, were there to help along the way.

I know that both Hillel and Chabad on Pitt’s campus made a lot of effort to bring students and faculty together at this difficult time. I attended a service the day after the shooting, as well as a large Shabbat dinner (that Chabad hosted) and a school-wide vigil that included speeches by students/faculty and song performances.

SAEPi led a presentation on antisemitism a few weeks after the shooting which was geared towards non-Jewish students learning what antisemitism looks like and how to be better allies. Several non-Jewish organizations, like Muslim student association, lent support to Jewish students.

Extreme shock, sadness, and community togetherness in times of crisis.

Many students took time to mourn. Many of my friends are Jewish, and a few of those friends grew up in Squirrel Hill; they isolated themselves from social media and sought comfort in others who could understand what they were going through. It becomes exhausting to explain over and over that you live, or are from, the place that a national tragedy occurred.

I noticed a lot of fundraisers for victims and their families.

Various vigils, workshops, talks, and marches occurred as a result of the event.

As an art student, a lot of us found it difficult to try and navigate around this event. Could we make work about it? How could we make work about it? Was it our place to speak about what happened? Could we continue to make and share our normal work so soon after? Some did make work about it. I had to ask for an extension on a project. I made a short video about the event, but only showed it to a few friends.

The Pitt Hillel and Chabad had a combined Shabbat service following the event that was very heartwarming. Pitt also had a vigil for all of its students and staff and had many student and staff speakers. The City of Pittsburgh had a vigil on campus which was huge, and religious leaders from all over the city came to speak and give their support to the Jewish community. Also, many clubs on campus had fundraisers for donations to the Tree of Life.

We had a small vigil put together by a senior who was Jewish. However, it was last minute and was not sponsored or a part of the University as a whole. Many students were, of course, in shock and upset but most did not feel as much of a connection since they did not know any Jewish people and especially in the area. But overall, people were in a strange place since it was so close.

I think most people felt the same as me. They were just in complete shock that something like this happened not just in Pittsburgh, but in the United States. Even gentiles came and mourned with the Jews, bringing us closer together than ever and uniting us as a people.

Students sold buttons and t-shirts to raise money for the temple.

I went to Race & Justice Pittsburgh hosted by the Atlantic in June, and one of the students from Taylor Allderdice was a speaker for one of the panels. At such a young age, her and her friends had come together as a team, family, life force to be their for their community. If this event happened to my friends and I while in high school, I can guarantee our response would not have been that admirable. The youth are stepping up more than ever before. It’s brave.

I experienced an outpouring of support. All of my friends on campus–and many of my friends across the country–reached out to me to give me their support and love. I saw students lost and afraid and overwhelmed and angry and distressed and devastated. I saw denial. People not coming to terms with what happened, trying to move on as a coping mechanism. This was hard for me because that’s the last thing I wanted to do.

I belong to St. Paul’s in Oakland and we collected donations for the Tree of Life Synagogue/ those affected. It was really touching, but additionally, St, Paul had a very protected and armed police offer at every Mass (at least the 10ams that I went to) which wasn’t reassuring and made me tenser during the service. Additionally Pitt hosted a Holocaust survivor and had her speak which was very touching. The University also held a ceremony on the Cathedral lawn with students singing and guest speakers.

Confusion, disillusionment, and pondering that such a tragedy could occur so close to a university.

There were more anti-gun sentiments as a result of this event rather than people speaking out against antisemitism. There was one event that I attended that I felt was solely meant to bring people together and not to push an anti-gun sentiment. There was a vigil at the University of Pittsburgh, and there was no mention of politics which I liked.

Student organizations selling wrist bands, my school had a ceremony in which all classes were dismissed to attend the memorial, t-shirt sales in which all proceeds go to the families affected and Jewish organizations. I drove past the outside of the synagogue about a week after the tragedy and the flowers and memorials and posters all show that there is so much more love out there than hate.

I saw a lot of disappointment from the Jewish students with the reaction of the school. I think that the unity rally was unfulfilling and the T-shirts were inopportune. I saw a lot of students go into mourning or become uncertain of how or if they should be in mourning. A lot of people just did not know how to react without stepping on anyone else’s toes.

I saw many posts on social media, both from Jewish students and non-Jewish students. I also saw memorial services from the city which were amazing to see, as it was a symbol of the community coming together.

The Jewish community of students were met with love and support from the student body, as they became engaged in any charity or fundraiser that benefited the victims afflicted.

Lots of on-campus events. My sorority sold sweatshirts/shirts within to alum and all proceeds went to the victims’ families. PITT gave out Stronger than Hate shirts. Hillel gave proceeds from their challah for hunger sale to victims families. They also had a Shabbat dinner with therapy dogs.

We are all angered and wondering when enough will be enough. It became such a harsh reality that it could happen to anyone, anywhere! I think people were surprised it happened in Pgh. But some people weren’t, citing that Squirrel Hill isn’t that warming community others were trying to say it was, and that there is racism and other violent acts there. I am torn and saddened by the divide and don’t know how to make sense of it. But I think everyone is sick of seeing mass shootings. And scared for the future.

Many vigils, public displays of the “Pittsburgh Strong” or “All People are welcome here” signs/murals, seeking therapeutic discussion, prompting group discussions, marches when Trump came in town, students in the Jewish community planning service trips together

A lot of tears. People who lost someone close to them or someone they knew, people who didn’t know any of the victims – everyone was affected. None of us expected this. I still don’t get it.