Standing with Pittsburgh: Old Dominion University

November 5, 2018

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Old Dominion University hosted a gathering on Monday, October 29. The program, attended by several hundred people, was sponsored by the Institute of Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding, ODU Hillel, Student Engagement and Enrollment Services, and the University Chaplain’s Association.

Amy Milligan, the Batten Endowed Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and the director of ODU’s Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding opened the program. An excerpt:

I’m grateful that so many of you were able to join us tonight at ODU’s moment of solidarity with the Tree of Life Synagogue and Jews around the country, as we join together to take a stand against anti-Semitism, hate, and intolerance.

It’s difficult to know what to say at times like these when there really aren’t words to capture the pain many of us are feeling. For me, at least, living Jewishly is the best resistance to the current hate and
anti-Semitism I am seeing in our country. This means that I am unafraid to be the voice of Judaism, that I use my personal commitment and platform to talk not only about anti-Semitism, but also
about the violence and hate experienced daily by my queer, trans, and Black brothers and sisters. You
see, it’s not enough for me to just care about Jews, because Judaism teaches me that we are all in this
together, that we have an obligation to work at tikkun olam, at repairing the world. This week that world came crashing in on the Jewish community, in a stark reminder that despite rallying cries of
“Never Again!,” Jews are still targeted daily in our country.

So what do we do next? As I was in conversation with Rabbi Litt, who co-directs Hillel with me, he mused, “Do we allow this senseless act to be a headline today and allow it to disappear tomorrow?
What must change? What action can we take right now?”

Indeed, perhaps the best way to honor the memory of those lost is to live a life of action, a life of actively repairing the world. Tonight, as we gather, we are taking that first step of standing in solidarity, we are working to fill the darkness of the present situation with mitzvot, with good deeds and love.

I would like to begin our time together by offering a small reading:

We begin—with silence.
The silence of death:
The silence of destruction:
There are times when songs falter,
When darkness fills life,
When martyrdom becomes
     a constellation of faith
Against the unrelieved black
    of space about us.
There are no words to reach beyond
    the edge of night,
No messenger to tell the full tale.
There is only silence.
The silence of Job.
The silence of the Six Million
(The Silence of the 11 murdered in
    Pittsburgh, simply for being Jews)
The silence of memory.
Let us remember them
    as we link our silences.

Letter to the Editor