In response to the deadly shootings at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem earlier this month, Hillels across the United States and Canada held events on their campuses to educate students about the incident and to memorialize the students who were killed.
At UCLA, about 40 students attended a vigil sponsored by Hillel and Bruins for Israel. Rabbis from three Jewish campus organizations — Hillel, Chabad and the Jewish Awareness Movement (JAM) — shared prayers with the group and students were invited to recite the names of the victims and light memorial candles in their honor.
Also in attendance were students from the UCLA chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The president of the organization participated in the candle-lighting ceremony.
"Only a week before they were on campus demonstrating against us and against what was going on in Gaza," said Anat Yitzhaki, Jewish Agency for Israel Fellow at UCLA Hillel. "To have them come and join us was amazing."
At UC-Irvine, 100 students, faculty and community members, including the university's vice chancellor, gathered on campus to say prayers, read names and light memorial candles for the victims of the shooting. A poster containing the names and pictures of those who were killed was placed alongside dozens of yahrtzeit memorial candles were arranged in the shape of an Israeli flag and were available for those who wished to light them. For days following the service the poster and candles remained undisturbed and on display for the rest of the campus community.
Across the country, Rutgers University students and faculty gathered on the steps of the Rutgers student center for a Hillel-sponsored vigil. Approximately 200 supporters heard from Hillel Rabbi Yisrael Porath, Rutgers University Student Assembly Chair Dana Jackson and the College Avenue campus dean Matt Matsuda who spoke on the issues of Jewish tradition and solidarity. Hillel students also read the names and biographies of the victims. Toward the end of the event, everyone in attendance was invited to sign a guest book to be delivered to Mercaz HaRav this summer.
Meanwhile, at the University of Western Ontario, tensions were high as both the Israel on Campus organization and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights demonstrated alongside one another at the center of campus.
Students from the Israel on Campus organization gathered at an area known as Concrete Beach to display pictures and biographies of the slain students and speak about the shootings. A few feet away, members and supporters of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights formed a human chain while brandishing Palestinian flags and signs denouncing the current situation in the Gaza Strip.
Despite the close proximity, both groups demonstrated peacefully and dispersed without incident.
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