More than 100 people attended a memorial vigil for the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris organized by the Hillel Jewish Student Center at UNLV and the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. The vigil was held January 12 in Pida Plaza adjacent to the Student Union on the campus of UNLV. Those present included students, faculty, community members, elected officials, rabbis and representatives from other faiths and religions. A visiting delegation of students from the University of Maryland Hillel, who were in Las Vegas for a special winter break community service project, also took part in the vigil.
“We were all shocked by the brutality of the terrorist attacks by Islamic fundamentalist Jihadists and knew that our Jewish community had to come together to mourn for the victims while expressing our solidarity with both the Jewish community of France and the French people,” said Matthew Kramer Morning, Hillel Director at UNLV. “Our Hillel student leaders, in cooperation with the Jewish Federation, immediately set out to organize the vigil and spread the word of the gathering.”
Hillel produced signs that were held by the crowd stating “Je Suis Charlie” and “Je Suis Juif,” French for” I am Charlie” and “I am Jewish” in honor of the victims of the attacks in Paris. Candles were also passed around the mournful crowd and a large poster board was available so people could write expressions of sympathy and support.
“As the world morns these tragic events we gather here tonight, on our UNLV campus, to stand up as a unified community against acts of terror; and to proclaim that these actions will not be tolerated,” proclaimed Bailey Braner, Student Vice President of the Hillel Jewish Student Center in her opening remarks to the crowd.
Sam Koralnik, a student from the University of Maryland Hillel’s Alternative break trip, was invited to light the 17 yahrzeit candles in memory of the victims murdered in the three attacks. As the candles were lit, Braner solemnly read the names of each of the 17 French victims.
Speakers at the vigil program included Elias Benjalloun, UNLV Student Government President; Gregory Brown, Vice Provost of UNLV; Rabbi Avi Cutler, Las Vegas Community Kollel; Rabbi Tzvi Bronchtain, Chabad at UNLV; Father Bob Stoecking of the Las Vegas Catholic Diocese; Teji Malik, of the Las Vegas Sikh community; Mike Hengel; Editor of the Las Vegas Review Journal; Gard Jameson, of the Las Vegas Interfaith Council; and Councilman Stavros Anthony, Las Vegas City Council. Each of the speakers stressed the need for tolerance, freedom of speech and democracy; well as a commitment to stand up against bigotry, hatred, violence and terrorism.
“I was very proud of our Hillel students for taking the initiative to organize the vigil,” said Elliot B. Karp, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation. “Their actions helped to bring our community together at a time when it was important for us to stand together as one community to show our concern as well as our solidarity with the Jewish community of France.”
The Jewish Federation of Las Vegas and the Jewish Federations of North America have set up an online web site to send expressions of support to the Jewish community of France. The link can be found here.
The Jewish Federation of Las Vegas announced an emergency grant of $5,000 to a special fund to help the Jewish community of France established by the Jewish Federations of North America. “Our Jewish Federation immediately responded to the events in Paris by making this special grant,” said David Stone, Chairman of the Board of the Jewish Federation. “The Jewish Federations of North America, together with our international partners the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, are providing support, assistance and aid to the French Jewish community in the wake and aftermath of the terror attacks.”
“There is an increased need for security in and around the Jewish community throughout France and Europe,” said Karp. “While the government and communities are committed to providing security there is a need for world Jewry to assist in this effort.” France, for example, has more than 600 Jewish synagogues, schools, community centers and other community facilities. “In addition, there is a need to provide support and services to the families of the victims as well as those directly injured or suffering from emotional stress as a result of the attacks.”
Additional coverage of the UNLV vigil may be found in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Pictured: Samuel Koralnik lights an Israeli memorial candle during a candlelight vigil outside the Student Union at UNLV Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Las Vegas. Community members gathered for the vigil that was sponsored by the UNLV Hillel Jewish Student Center and Jewish Federation to remember the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and to show their support against all acts of terror, hatred and bigotry. (Ronda Churchill/Las Vegas Review-Journal)