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Emory gathers to remember victims of synagogue shooting

With the flag on the Emory Quad flying at half-staff, the campus community gathered Monday to remember the victims of the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Students, faculty and staff filled the Cannon Chapel overhang between the Modern Languages Building and White Hall at 5:30 p.m. for the hour-long, student-led remembrance.

Lisa Garvin, acting dean of the chapel and religious life, opened the remembrance by reading from a community message sent by Emory President Claire E. Sterk, before turning the program over to students.

“I encourage us to stand together, rejecting violence and modeling its opposite: non-violence, compassion, and the love that goes hand-in-hand with justice,” Sterk said in the message, sent via email to the Emory community on Sunday. “I am proud that Emory strives to be a place where people can hold difficult conversations respectfully and where all of us — regardless of who we are, where we were born, whom we love, or how we choose to worship — can find a home to flourish.” 

Wearing yarmulkes, Buddhist monks’ robes, white physician coats, business suits, sweatshirts and scrubs, the diverse attendees held candles as student speakers offered prayers and reflections.

Jesse Steinman offered insights from the Torah and Kate Kandor read the names of the 11 victims and recited the mourner’s Kaddish, with many in the audience joining in. Stephen Mattes then led the audience in reciting from the Tehillim, or Psalms, with the familiar words – “Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” — offered first in Hebrew, then in English.

Xavier Sayeed, Himani Shetti, Anna Farrell and Lacey Campbell offered messages of peace and solidarity from Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian traditions, respectively.

Lindsay Gorby, a senior in Emory College, grew up in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill that is home to Tree of Life Synagogue and offered poignant reflections on her hometown and the tight-knit Jewish community there. “It will take more than bullets to break the foundation of love and support that we have for one another,” she said.

Closing the speech that she said she “never, ever wanted to have to write,” Gorby offered a message of unity and mutual support.

“I pray that you never see your home on the national news, littered with federal agents, and I pray that your home never feels the utter devastation, shock and grief that mine has,” she said. “But if it ever does, we will be here. People from all races, nationalities, political parties, faiths and sexual orientations will be here. It is our believe that community, love and support unite us closer than any act of violence can divide us. We will be here, together.”

Abby Busis then called on those present to help support the community impacted by the shooting by sending financial contributions to the Tree of Life Congregation and by writing prayers and notes that will be sent to the Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh to be given to students there. Briley Newell, who had briefly served as a music teacher at Tree of Life, concluded the ceremony with a song.

After the service ended, attendees gathered around tables to write their messages on construction paper cut into shapes of leaves in honor of Tree of Life.

Support resources

Below is information about resources for those who have been impacted by this tragedy, or who would like support dealing with other issues: 

Emory Helpline is an anonymous, peer counseling telephone service for students. It is open from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week, during the regular academic year (excluding major holidays). Students with non-urgent mental health situations may contact the Helpline at 404-727-4357 (HELP).

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides individual, group and couples counseling; stress management classes; and community outreach to provide support for students and assist them in negotiating emotional and interpersonal difficulties as they matriculate through Emory University. 404-727-7450. 

Student Intervention Services (SIS) assists students in times of crisis. It also offers impartial, judgment-free counsel for students seeking guidance and assistance through life's ongoing challenges. 404-430-1120.

Student Health Services (SHS) offers free psychiatric services for all enrolled Emory students. Services include diagnostic psychiatric evaluations, medication evaluations, long-term management of psychiatric medications, and community referrals. Learn more information about reaching SHS after-hours emergencies or call 404-727-7551.

Office of Spiritual and Religious Life is located in the Alumni Memorial University Center (AMUC 125) and Cannon Chapel (Suite 316). Services are available for students, faculty and staff. 404-727-6225. 

Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) provides support for employees, including daytime emergency appointments and on-call after-hours services. Visit the emergency services webpage or call 404-727-9355 (WELL).

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