Hundreds of students, staff, and faculty members from Washington University gathered at the southwest corner of Simon Hall for a unity gathering to commemorate the 11 victims of Saturday’s deadly shooting at the Tree of Life temple in Pittsburgh.
The event came together in 24 hours in the wake of news that the shooting had touched the Olin community itself: Diane Rosenthal Hirt, BSBA ’83, is the sister of two victims, David and Cecil Rosenthal, who were laid to rest following a service at Pittsburgh’s Rodef Shalom Synagogue on Tuesday. “No one ever expects to write a eulogy for a sibling,” Hirt told an overflowing Squirrel Hill temple at their funeral, “let alone two siblings at the same time—especially under such tragic and horrific circumstances.”
A current student, Zach Moskow, BSBA ’20, is also related to the brothers and was asked to participate in planning the combination unity rally and tree-planting ceremony—a tradition in the Jewish faith. “It’s really amazing to see everyone here, regardless of your background,” Moskow said in a brief statement to the large crowd. “Thank you for letting me be a part of this.”
Moskow, related through his mother’s family to the two Rosenthal brothers, said his family was touched by Washington University’s commemoration of the event and the lives of David and Cecil. He said they were looking forward to seeing pictures from the event.
“This is a challenging time for the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Hershey Novack, co-director of WashU Chabad. “While hate and darkness threatens to overwhelm us, we say NO! No, we must not let this happen. The forces of good are greater than the forces of evil.”
Novack and Moskow were joined in planting a sapling by Chancellor Mark Wrighton, the Rev. Beth Scriven of Interfaith Campus Ministries, Emelyn Dela Peña of the Center for Diversity & Inclusion, and Rabbi Jordan Gerson of WashU Hillel.
Peña noted that the sapling was the first heritage oak tree to be planted on WashU’s campus—a tree that would boast a magnificent canopy within 15 years.
“Planting a sapling tree is a powerful symbol of hope,” Novack said.