Question 3 (Strong reactions, personal participation)

Are there any responses to which you had a strong reaction? Are there any responses you personally or as part of a group took part in? If so, how did it feel to participate in a response?

I had never seen such a large group of people get together at the intersection of Forbes and Murray. That was the first vigil where I actually felt a serious connection to the people around me. We all hugged each other and cried as we watched our candles flicker. I felt numb, after a certain point you could only cry so many tears. My sorority, SAEPi, designed beautiful pins to raise money for the congregation. It felt good to see so many students supporting our community.


The University of Pittsburgh hosted a vigil on the Cathedral of Learning Lawn about a week after the shooting occurred, and that really impacted me as a participant. I was given class and work off so I attended the vigil which had the Chancellor as well as some student speakers at the event and the Tree of Life religious leaders. They said some really supporting phrases and it comforted me that us as the student body were able to have the support of the upper administration during the time right after the event.


I was at the Tree of Life memorial event on campus at Pitt. It was a highly emotional, powerful, and solemn event that I think brought a lot of unity.


As a student teacher in the Pittsburgh Public School district, I experienced the response that the district had to the tragedy. All of the teachers were told that we should avoid having whole class discussions about the shooting, and any students approaching teachers individually should be sent to the grief counselors. I felt that this policy was overtly legal-leaning to prevent PPS responsibility, but did not take the student needs into account. Students wished to speak to teachers that they were close with, not strangers who had been brought in just for this event.


Tree of Life got a lot of help from Muslim groups, even internationally. It reminded me of other occasions when Muslim groups greatly helped Jewish groups, namely when they helped repair Jewish graveyards after they were severely vandalized. I didn’t take part in anything myself other than small donations. I especially remember wanting to give blood, but being unable to because of a medication I was on.


I did not.


I will say that both the campus-wide vigil and the Holocaust Speaker who came to speak had a lasting impact on the tragedy. The speaker attracted a wide variety of students around campus and in the Pittsburgh area as she shared her Holocaust survival story, and her reaction to the shooting at “Tree of Life”. Her message throughout her stories made us aware that anti-semitism still exists today, and that if no one stands up for the Jewish people, then it will continue to spread rapidly throughout the country.


It felt uplifting to participate in sticker and wristband sales because I was donating to the victims’ families.


I wasn’t directly involved in the tragedy other than living here; however, at the vigil at Soldiers and Sailors I couldn’t help but sob for everyone who was hurt because my friends lost friends and people they were close to. I thought that was touching. My response to the vigil at Pitt was that it was insincere. I do believe Pitt cares about stuff like this, but it’s disheartening to watch pitt be so supportive of our white brothers and sisters but actively fight against protests for violence against other races. I love Pitt, but there’s a double standard sometimes.


I went to a vigil where the leader, someone who went to the Synagogue often and knew many of these people, described each person and what they did for the community. It was overwhelming, hearing about these lives that had done so much and only hearing about their accomplishments after they had died.


I am actually in an organization within the band that helps out with a lot of things. Our president is Jewish and I spoke with her about what our organization could to do help other bandsmen support each other. One idea we liked was to have our Jewish bandsmen sort of share their culture with others, so we could better understand what it all means to them. Unfortunately, not as many people liked this idea in the band. But, someone from the band took it to their Jewish fraternity and actually held the event open to the entire university.


There was a friend of mine who was heavily involved with a club on Pitt’s campus. I told him about my connection to the tragedy and without a second thought, he quickly organized for his club to put together a fundraiser and have the proceeds go towards supporting the synagogue. It was amazing seeing how quickly people were willing to step up and help out, and how my story was able to bring a positive light to the darkness of the situation.


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.


Seeing the Presidential motorcade drive pass from my dorm window left me with mixed emotions. While there were protests, I believe that it was better for President Trump to visit than to not. While Pittsburgh and Allegheny county would rather not see him in their streets, it is comforting for the people of every surrounding county to see that, in the midst of all this chaos, Trump still seems to care about their brothers and sisters in the city. Personally, I just observed all of this as a political outsider, wishing that there was no need for any of this.


I’m affiliated with the Pittsburgh Catholic Newman Clubs and we held many prayer sessions. The disgust in it all was these people were practicing their faith when they were killed. What kind of monster would do something like that?


Yes, I took part in the protest/community support march through Squirrel Hill when President Trump came to Pittsburgh. While marching and singing traditional Jewish music my friends and I were stopped on the street and thanked by a grieving family, who I had assumed lost someone in this tragedy. It was a very powerful moment that brought this closer to home than I ever could have imagined.


I attended the vigil in Squirrel Hill the night of. I was uncomfortable there, there were people singing “Silent Night”. Afterwards I went home and I did Havdalah with my friend. I went to the Vigil put on by Chabad. Everyone there was crying. Overall the responses I went to that weren’t put on by jews felt fake, like they missed an entire part of why it was so upsetting to me. It did not feel great to attend the non-Jewish responses. I felt tokenized and more isolated then before.


I was surprised that classes were not cancelled. I remember having a test that Monday, however, the professor did address it. I believe that more could have been done to help Jewish students at Pitt.


At Pitt’s vigil event, I really felt the greatness of the city, the students, and the people who came to pay their respects. Signing banners and sending cards seems like a small task for such a tremendous event, but even doing that helped everyone’s hearts be lifted in such a tough time.


The school-wide vigil that Pitt had made me very emotional, especially because so many students showed up and supported it. Personally, I also wrote an obituary for one of the victims. That was also a very powerful experience in that I got the chance to learn a lot more about this person’s life through speaking to some of their closest colleagues and friends. It felt like I was doing something important and meaningful by writing this article.


The responses that took a more gun-reform approach was a little jarring and frustrating, especially so soon after it happened. It sometimes felt like the focus was on gun reform, rather than the fact it was an act of hatred against a marginalized group. Although gun reform is a valid issue, there were times when the fact that it was an antisemitic attack fell by the wayside. Also, there were several “vigils” that felt like a Christian ceremony, with gospel songs and prayers. This felt inappropriate.


The knitted David’s stars around campus both reminded me of the tragedy and showed the immense strength of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh.


The night after the shooting, a vigil was hosted in Squirrel Hill. I walked alone to meet a friend, and as I never grew up Jewish, mostly I was an observer to the mourning hymns that were sung. In one hand I carried an umbrella (it rained that night), and in the other I carried a candle (a kind woman had offered it to me).


The free t-shirt giveaway from the University of Pittsburgh shocked me because this response was not given when Antwon Rose was shot and killed….


The City of Pittsburgh vigil was the most powerful response that I took part in. I felt very supported by the city that I call home.


I did participate in the small vigil held at my school. The honors program was also supposed to have a university vigil that I was asked to speak at. However, after the student run one, they decided to cancel there’s which made me disappointed as I think each could have been unique enough and helped a larger population of the university. I definitely wished that I was able to participate in more and be with other Jews in processing it all but I am glad that I was able to do the little that I did.


I had a pretty strong negative reaction when people have tried to politicize this tragedy on both sides of the aisle. President Trump has said that we need to have armed protection, but I think that’s ridiculous to have at a place of worship. On the other side, people (like the Pittsburgh branch of Bend the Arc) have been blaming it on President Trump, saying his nationalist ideology is what causes these extremists. I don’t think that’s true and personally don’t blame him at all. He even came to Pittsburgh to talk to the wounded people in the hospital.


I took part in every response I could. I felt it was the only right thing to do.


It seems simple but the “Stronger than Hate” slogan that formed so quickly after the event bonded the city together. In some twisted, dark way the event brought the city and its residents closer together because we realized how fragile each human life is and we needed to protect them. Although it was tough, mental health wise after, the strength of the community and the Stronger than Hate mindset reassured me that Pittsburgh is home and we will make changes to not let this happen again.


Hillel had a group session where we sat in a circle and had a discussion about what happened. There were different questions on the wall like “what do you want other students to know” and things like that. This was really powerful for me because it allowed me to really grieve in a Jewish space and with my peers. Another major thing was that my AEPi induction was that night. It was scheduled for then and they decided to keep it. It was a way to say, “we’re still here, and you can’t stop our Jewishness”


I am a photographer and photographed the event on the Cathedral Lawn. I felt a sense of community although the circumstances were unfortunate. I really felt touched by the Holocaust survivor’s speech/event. It was a good reminder of what happened and unfortunately that there is still hate based on a variety of traits. On one of my Instagram accounts I called out those that allow these sort of tragedies to occur again&again. I posted about my anxiety first hand, about finding out that a coworker of my parent’s was killed, about legislation and change that needs to happen.


I went to the vigil at Pitt, and it felt good to feel solidarity with many groups of people. However the majority of people made it about guns, and I hated that. For me, it felt as if they were dancing on the graves who died and were using this heinous act as a means to advance a baseless political agenda.


On Tuesday night we painted the fence. At midnight, around a hundred students converged on the fence in the middle of campus, wearing old t-shirts and stained pants. Someone had brought paint and brushes, and we painted over the glowing yellow coat with thick swipes of black paint. After the coats of black paint dried we dipped our hands in white paint and then pressed them against the side of the fence, a proud statement: we are here. Somehow speakers appeared, and someone found a playlist of Jewish music. In the dark we laughed and sang along to old songs I hadn’t heard for years and I knew that somehow things would be okay.


I think the vigil on soldiers and sailors was beautiful and a really amazing opportunity for so many communities to join. I think Pitt’s rally was vague and poorly thought out. I did not like the pop song about stronger than hate and the design of the T-shirts that featured a golden Jewish star on the front. I think Hillel and Chabad did a very good job of providing comfort and a place to talk and join together after the shooting.


The University created t-shirts and special memorial events for the shooting which was, in my opinion, very tasteless. This was a tragedy, and it should not have served as a way to hand out free t-shirts. Additionally, if the University wants to recognize tragedies like Tree of Life, they should formally recognize all Pittsburgh tragedies, including police brutality, for example.


I bought a shirt from my sorority, I got a stronger than hate shirt.


When I read comments of people saying Squirrel Hill was always racist and not a nice neighborhood, it broke my heart. Sure, there are always people trying to incite violence everywhere. They are mostly speaking about the stickers that have been around for a while. But Jews choose to ignore this, choose to live their lives unbothered to the noise of violence. But the shooter spoke his intentions. And it rattles my mind how he was able to publicly tell his intentions, and still be unstopped.


I went to and started facilitated conversations in my School and athletic program. I felt and felt like I was giving support. I think these interactions also cemented the connections within these communities. Making space for dialogue and mourning also allowed for an honesty which you don’t experience on the daily. Rushing to get stuff done didn’t seem like the most important priority for a while.


We had a ceremony after the event occurred, and I remember someone saying that one of the victims was an older woman who had come to America to escape the Holocaust, and that this was what she was met with after immigrating. I was devastated after hearing that and pretty much lost it there.