Hillel is helping Jewish students to respond to the personal and community impact of terrorism
Jewish students reacted to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. with bewilderment, shock and a desire to heal their campus communities. With many students unable to travel home due to the national transportation gridlock, Hillels have remained open to provide housing, counseling and sources of information. Hillel professionals and student activists have sponsored campus vigils and have publicly fought instances of anti-Arab and anti-Moslem hatred on campus.
"For many college students, this is the greatest historic tragedy of their lives: their Pearl Harbor, their Kennedy Assassination, their Rabin Assassination," explains Hillel President and International Director Richard M. Joel. "With the stoppage of air traffic, many of these students could not return home to be with their families if they wanted to. Hillel professionals are helping them to sort out their sorrow, anger and fear.
"These horrifying deeds are not a blow against one nation or one community but against humanity itself," Joel continues. "Hillels understand that it would be wrong to use this incident as an opportunity to make political statements. To the contrary, Hillels have appropriately denounced the anti-Arab and anti-Islamic hatred."
New York-area Hillels have remained open during this crisis, serving as important gathering points for students to stay informed, receive counseling and to congregate while transportation has been impeded into and out of the city. The Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University, the Hillel closest to the World Trade Center, is open for normal activity and is being used by the university as a 24-hour emergency center for students.
Bronfman Center Assistant Director Cindy Greenberg describes the Hillel students' efforts to collect supplies for relief workers: "The students are just amazing - truly inspirational. They set up an impromptu relief collection table on the near the Bronfman Center. After running around the city franticly this morning doing a needs assessment, they began collecting supplies -- granola bars, water, Tylenol, Gatorade, clothing, rain gear, etc. -- to be delivered to the Javitz Center where relief workers spend their breaks. President Bill Clinton was down the street talking to the people of New York but our students weren't phased for a minute. They continued collecting as he passed by. The response was overwhelming. Within an hour or two they had already collected a truckload of supplies. They flagged down a passing truck that picked them up and brought the supplies to the center."
Hillel has worked closely with the Moslem and Arab communities in many locations. Jewish and Moslem students conducted a joint vigil at Brown University. At Loyola of Chicago these communities placed an ad in the school newspaper. Rabbi Bruce Bromberg Seltzer of the Freeman Center for Jewish Life at Duke University sent a note to all Jewish students that said, in part, "I call on all members of our community to remember the core Jewish teaching that all people are created in God's image ... I hope all of you to join me in wishing [campus Moslem chaplain] Imam Waheed and the entire Moslem community safety and peace in a time when they are receiving stares and threats." After threats against Arab students on campus, Hillel at the University of Cincinnati put up a sign that reads: "'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.' (Isaiah 56:7) Your Hillel will be open all week. Please stop in for a hug, to offer a prayer, or to shed a tear. God bless America."
In addition to continued support for individual students, Hillel has encouraged campus groups to undertake activities that are shaped by the themes of the High Holy Day period:
- Teshuva (Introspection): A time to reflect and ponder the enormity of the tragedy.
- Tefilla (Prayer): Prayers for the victims, those who lost loved ones, and those who survived the trauma. Prayer for our own well being in the uncertain days ahead of us.
- Tzedaka (Justice): Donations of money and blood to the relevant relief organizations to help those who have been victimized by the bombings. Help give life by contacting your local Red Cross, blood bank, or hospital, or call 1-800-GIVE LIFE for more details. Checks may be made payable to UJC Emergency Relief Fund and sent to: 111 Eighth Avenue, Suite 11E, New York, NY 10011.