Community reacts to synagogue massacre


Temple Beth Sholom board member Aaron Scholnik addresses community members who gathered Monday for a candlelight vigil. The vigil was held to honor the 11 lives lost in a mass shooting which took place Saturday at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Photo by: Kat Torreano

Tim Eggert

The NMU community is reacting to a rampage, described as among the deadliest attacks against the Jewish community in the United States, which took place inside a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday morning.

According to authorities, assailant Robert D. Bowers stormed into the Tree of Life Congregation and opened fire indiscriminately into the crowd, killing 11 congregants and wounding four police officers and two others.

“The events that took place on Saturday are atrocious and deeply hurtful for all Jewish people and most people with a moral compass in our nation,” senior English-writing and French major and Jewish Student Union (JSU) President Emma Fellows said in an interview. “The JSU has reached out to students affected by the shooting and has provided a safe and supportive environment for them.”

On Tuesday, NMU President Fritz Erickson addressed the synagogue massacre in a university-wide email.

“Shaken, disgusted and outright angry at this past weekend’s tragedy in Pittsburgh are just a few of the emotions we feel–regardless of one’s religion but particularly for those who practice the Jewish faith,” the email read. “This senseless act of evil strikes at our very core, but please know that hate has no place at Northern. The Northern Michigan University family stands
with you.”

English professor and faculty adviser to the JSU Gabriel Brahm said in an email to The North Wind he appreciates Erickson’s “thoughtful and caring response” and expects “nothing less from him or Northern as a whole.”

“At times like this, I value [NMU] even more, as a bastion of civic education, liberal education, robust free speech, open dialogue and intense conversation about the meaning of being human and being American,” Brahm said. “This is a great school which I am proud to work at, full of wonderful, caring people.”

Fellows said Erickson’s “appropriate sentiment” was an important one to share because although she hasn’t faced outright anti-Semitic actions or attitudes on campus, it has been a subtext in the dialogue she has with some people.

“Any time me being Jewish has come up in conversation, a majority of the time it’s exchanged with, ‘I’ve never met a Jewish person before’ or ‘You’re the first Jew that I’ve met,’” Fellows said.

“But being in a location where you become a minority figure forces you to connect more to those roots.”

On Monday, Temple Beth Sholom in Marquette hosted a candlelight vigil in honor of the 11 lives lost.

“It was extremely moving,” Fellows said of the vigil. “It was really lovely to see the greater community of Marquette come together to show its support for our small but powerful community.”

Erickson’s email concluded with an encouragement to “share our faiths and cultures in ways that are positive and caring,” one that both Brahm and Fellows agree with.

“We either participate together to confront controversial and difficult topics in academically credible and intellectually serious ways, ways that build up solidarity in our educational community, or the quality of public life deteriorates,” Brahm said.

“It’s really important to talk about this,” Fellows said. “The Jewish faith promotes such a tight-knit community and I really hope it shines a light in the university community too.”