‘We do not tolerate hate or racism’: Community honors victims of Pittsburgh, Louisville shootings

After 13 lives were lost in two shootings, community members honored victims with a candlelight vigil and called for an end to acts deemed hateful.

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Charles Peckman

More than 100 people held candles while singing traditional Jewish songs during a vigil for the shootings in Pittsburgh and Louisville in the Iowa Memorial Union on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. Members of the Jewish and African American communities came to mourn the loss of those who were killed in last week’s shootings at Kroger and Tree of Life Synagogue.

Mastura Ibnat, News Reporter

Iowa City community members and University of Iowa students came together Tuesday over a shared fear that people’s identities will continue to make them targets of acts deemed hateful following recent shootings in two different states targeted at black and Jewish citizens.

Those who came together Tuesday sought to honor the 13 victims who lost their lives in the two shootings with a candlelight vigil. The vigil took place in the Iowa Memorial Union with approximately 150 in attendance.

In Pennsylvania, a man killed 11 people and wounded six others on Oct. 27 in the Tree of Life Congregation after shouting anti-Semitic slurs during prayer.

This incident followed the shooting that took place on Oct. 24 in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. The assailant had attempted to enter a black church before killing two customers at a Kroger supermarket. Both customers were black.

Many community members spoke at the Iowa City vigil, including Jerry Ellen of the Johnson County Interfaith Coalition.

Ellen spoke about her fear for the future of the many children who were present at the vigil.

“I think the reason that I’m so emotional is because I see so many children here, and I can’t help but to think that they’ll grow up and be hated just because they are black or just because they are Jewish,” she said.

Ellen expressed her disappointment in the circumstances of the event and said she hoped that, one day, the community could celebrate the differences in others rather than mourn them.

“We will stand with those around this country who are ridiculed, who are bullied, and who are killed simply for being who they are,” Ellen said. “I wish for a day that [the Johnson County Interfaith Coalition] doesn’t need to exist.”

Gabriella Koren, president of Hillel House, a UI Jewish student organization, expressed her anger and shock about the Pittsburgh shooting.

“The assailant’s sole wish was to kill Jewish individuals, and he chose to enter and murder congregants while they gathered for a peaceful Sabbath morning prayer service,” she said. “As Jews, we do not tolerate hate or racism, and we stand by those who are also victims of intolerance and hate.”

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Margot Sylvan of Hillel House mentioned her regret at the fact that among the 11 victims in the Pittsburgh shooting, one of them was a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor.

“Unfortunately, it shows the level of hatred that still exists in our country. As a young, intelligent generation, we can’t stand by and let this continue,” she said. “If we don’t speak and take action, then it won’t stop.”

Regardless, Koren said she maintains hope in the Jewish community and their ability to stay resilient in the face of the Pittsburgh tragedy.

“There can be no excuses for the violence and tragedy that occurred, only sadness and the unwavering certainty that we, as part of the Jewish community, will not back down in the face of threats and anti-Semitism,” she said. “We hope that others will mourn with us for these lost souls and work to ensure that anti-Semitism or hate in any form has no home in America today.”

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