The Clarion University community made a unified statement Monday night that it is Stronger Than Hate.
"We pride ourselves at Clarion University as being a place of acceptance," said Zachary Shoup representing Sigma Phi Epsilon.
Shoup was one of several speakers at a university vigil to condemn hate and honor the recent shooting victims from Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill and in Louisville, Kentucky.
Other speakers included President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, Ph.D.; Pamela Gent, Ph.D., provost and vice president of academic affairs; Madison Bumbarger, student senate representative; James Lyle, Ph.D., faculty senate chair; Raymond Feroz, Ph.D., APSCUF president; Kevan Yenerall, Ph.D., department of social sciences (political science); Jeffrey Diamond, Ph.D., department of social sciences (history); Ann Liska, director of Campus Ministry; and Phil Terman, Ph.D., department of English.
In addition to speakers, the night began with Clarion University Chamber Singers singing "At the River" and the Women's Quartet singing "Prayer of the Children." The evening ended with an A Capella soloist from the Lift Every Voice Choir.
Gent began her remarks by reading the names of locations where shootings have occurred within the past couple of years.
"These are hate crimes. There is no room for hate at Clarion," Gent said. "We can learn to disarm hate."
Gent went on to say that we can't defeat hate with more hate admitting that after hearing of shootings it's hard not to experience feelings of hatred toward the perpetrator. "We must defeat hate with love."
Bumbarger said she was in Pittsburgh that day taking a test.
"I thought that this was just another day in downtown Pittsburgh," Bumbarger said.
Bumbarger takes comfort in the belief that "tolerance is winning" in Clarion.
Feroz reminded the crowd of a Martin Luther King Jr. quote: "The time is always right to do what is right."
Yenerall recited the motto of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society: "Welcome the stranger. Protect the refugee." He spoke of Squirrel Hill as an essential neighborhood for America as it is sacred, secular and creative with a myriad of languages.
He recalled that he had interaction with some of the victims at the Jewish Community
Diamond shared a memory from his childhood. As a six-year-old boy, he noticed a tattoo of numbers on a relative's arm and he asked him about it.
"Sadly, he just looked at me teary-eyed and never answered the question," Diamond
Diamond recalled the Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacy protests in which they chanted "the Jew will not replace us."
"Fear is a really powerful and fear is really dangerous," Diamond said.
Liska encouraged the crowd by quoting her parents. Her mother always said, "There is room at the table," and her dad said, "Everyone has a spark of God within them."
Before reading the names of the Tree of Life shooting victims, Terman recited a poem he wrote after the shooting. He explained that a minyan is the name of the 10 required adults necessary to hold a Jewish service and on that day of the shooting they had "A Minyan Plus One," which became the title of the poem.
The poem is as follows:
A Minyan* Plus One
was taken from us on the Shabbat,
the most joyous of the holidays,
the only holy day even God Himself
celebrates, the emulation of Eden,
the day of completion. Before
they could perform the service, before
they could take their seats and begin
the prayers, before the ark opened
and the Torah revealed,
before they could rise and sway
and chant their portion, the book
opened like wings in their steady hands,
though they know the blessings by heart.
I didn't know them, but I knew them
in the way we know those raised,
no matter where we originated,
in the same beliefs our ancestors
inherited all the way back into
those mysterious origins,
those stories of creation and exile,
of miracles and complicated kings,
of commandments and wisdoms—
"welcome the stranger"—
spread across the millennium.
We suffer the same persecutions,
celebrate the same triumphs, chant,
in the same order, the blessings,
hour after hour, holiday after holiday,
generation after generation,
Torah portion after Torah portion.
Before that week's Torah portion,
A minyan plus one was taken.
When they would have once again
heard the story of when Abraham,
our first Patriarch of Chutzpah,
approached and argued with the Lord:
"Will you sweep away the righteous
with the wicked?" And He was answered:
"For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."
And so, as on other days, on that day—
He did. He allowed the wicked
To sweep away the righteous.
And when the LORD had finished
speaking with Abraham, He left.
And took a minyan plus one.
And Abraham returned home.