Candlelight vigil for Pittsburgh synagogue

Stronger than hate

By Amanda M. Perez

Stronger than hate

By Amanda M. Perez
University of Miami holds a vigil to remember those who were killed in the deadly mass shooting inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.

A sea of candles illuminated the University of Miami campus Monday night to honor the lives lost in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. 

“Tonight we stand together, we cry together, we mourn together, reflect together and remember together,” said Lyle Rothman, UM Hillel campus rabbi and Jewish chaplain.

On Saturday, 11 people deep in prayer died when a gunman opened fire inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The shock of the horrific event impacted people worldwide including the UM community here in South Florida.

“It is heartwarming to see the U family come together to stand in solidarity against the hate of the hateful and against the intolerance of the intolerant,” said Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs.


About 300 people attended the prayer vigil which was hosted by student leaders and University of Miami Hillel. UM Hillel Presidents Brandon Jackson and Casey Dresbach were among the many speakers who voiced powerful words. 

“Today I wear my Star of David with no less pride than the day before. My hope is that everyone take the peace of tonight and remember there will be hurdles in this long fight toward ending anti-Semitism,” said Jackson. 

“I will not stand to hear the words ‘I’m scared to be Jewish.’ I commit myself to work together with my community and my peers to ensure this campus serves as the safest platform for all religions, races and nationalities,” said Dresbach. 

Dresbach, the granddaughter of a holocaust survivor, believes it is her moral obligation to do everything she can to have her voice heard. 

“Speaking up is the most powerful tool we have. The hostility we face lingers but our goodness is strong,” she said.

Speakers urged the crowd to turn their frustration into action to create positive change in the community. 

“It is my firm belief the actions of hate or violence can only be alleviated through unity and togetherness,” said Evan De Joya, student government president. “I invite you to connect with each other and let each other know you support one another. Now is the time to ask yourself what actions you can take to uphold an inclusive community.” 

A show of unity was demonstrated at the vigil during a multi-faith prayer for peace. UM chaplains from different faiths offered words of peace.

“We recognize that an attack that singles out one religion is an attack in all Americans who seek to practice their faith free from fear. Our sincerest prayers go out to family and friends affected by this heinous attack,” said Iman Abdul Hamid Samra.

At the end of the night people were invited to share words of hope and love by signing a card that will be sent to the Tree of Life Synagogue.