By: David Rubinstein  | 

Students Unite in Support and Prayer in Face of Terror Wave

Yeshiva University held several events in connection to the recent surge in terror attacks in Israel. The violence started during the Sukkot break on October 1st with the murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin but has extended into the resumption of the semester, allowing students to respond on campus to the events in Israel.

A rally for the communal recitation of Psalms was called for October 12th by the Student Organization of Yeshiva, the student council responsible for religious student activities on the Wilf Campus. When the terror continued into the next day, a second rally was called for October 13th. Several leaders of the YU community led the prayers, which were held in the Glueck Beit Midrash, including President Richard Joel and Rabbi Herschel Shachter, Rosh Yeshiva. Between 300 to 400 students from across the programs of the Undergraduate Torah Studies attended each rally.

Students found the rallies to be a good way to feel connected to Jews in Israel. “It obviously can't replace what Israelis are going through right now,” a junior in the Mazer Yeshiva Program reflected. “But it was certainly a helpful experience to turn to God in whatever way we could.”

Psalms have been recited at the end of each minyan in addition to the formal rallies. These recitations are based on the belief that communal prayer, in the form of reciting Psalms, is particularly appropriate in times of collective trouble.

On the night of October 13, around 70 students attended a discussion titled “Jewish Responses to Terror.” Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Shacter, University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought, led the discussion together with Rabbi Gideon Black, who survived a terror attack that killed his cousin. SOY and the Torah Activities Council, the student council responsible for religious student activities on the Beren Campus, sponsored the event. The event was created “to provide opportunities for students to have their voices heard and their input valued,” TAC President Talia Molotsky, ’16, said.

Chaya Dachoh, TAC Vice President, thought the program “provided students chizuk and guidance on how to act as a nation and respond to the terror that is occurring in Israel.” Rabbi Shacter stressed the importance of coming closer to one’s neighbor and to God in the face of the attacks in Israel.

In addition to the psalms and discussion, The Shmira Project gathered much support from YU students. The project’s mission, according to its Facebook page, is to “Join together as a community to fill every hour” of the week of October 11 to 18 with Torah study. Launched by former SOY President Jacob Bernstein, ’15, the initiative was disseminated by Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Torah Studies Rabbi Ely Bacon in an email to student leaders in the YU Batei Midrash, including shiur assistants, many of whom forwarded the initiative to their shiur. “We must do everything we can to help klal Yisroel especially during these difficult times,” Rabbi Bacon wrote in the email.

A learning initiative was organized by the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary for October 14 in the Glueck Beit Midrash. Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Mayer Twersky spoke about issues in Jewish law related to the current crisis and Rabbi Meir Goldwicht, Joel and Maria Finkle Visiting Israeli Rosh Yeshiva, offered inspirational insights. Dr. Rona Novick, Dean of Azrielli School of Jewish Education and Administration, gave a talk entitled “Coping with the Matzav in Israel” as part of the Community Shabbat programming on October 17.

On the Beren Campus, several initiatives brought students together in response to the terror in Israel. The Israel Club organized a rally for the recitation of Psalms on October 15. Additionally, Aliza Chase, a senior majoring in biochemistry and the President of the TAC club Got Middot distributed the Hebrew names of Jewish victims injured in the recent terror attacks, encouraging students to recite Psalms for their recovery. Ms. Chase also organized a “Shemirat HaLashon” initiative, in which volunteers agree to be particularly mindful of preserving positive speech for one hour. The goal is to have volunteers for every hour of the week of October 18 through 24. “We can unite the Jewish people and foster love between us,” Ms. Chase said, “through focusing on small changes we can make to be more caring individuals and improving our relationships with each other.”

Off campus, a unity rally in solidarity with Israel was held outside the Israeli Mission to the United Nations in midtown on Thursday afternoon. Aliza Abrams Konig, Director of Student Life and Jewish Service Learning, sent an email to the student body urging their attendance. “We cannot remain silent,” she wrote. “We must declare loudly and clearly: Israel, you are not alone – we stand with you!”

Despite the multiple events and ways in which Yeshiva University students have responded to the surge in violence in Israel, students felt “there is still more that we can do for our country,” as senior Daniel Gofine, a former combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, said. A Yeshiva College junior studying philosophy commented, “Our complete duty as Jews is still unfulfilled; we must do as much as we can to help our family in Israel.” SOY President Tuvy Miller encouraged students of both campuses “to approach student leaders with ideas they have with how they can get involved so that as a community we can support our sisters and brothers in Israel.” He found the student response to the terror in Israel “very inspiring. It’s heartwarming to see so many people caring.”

As of press time, seven Israelis and 42 Palestinians, including alleged terrorists, have been killed since the beginning of October. Hundreds have been injured.

Overall, Yeshiva University’s response has emphasized unity and a feeling of connectedness with Jews in Israel. “YU has taken many initiatives to show our support and solidarity for the people and State of Israel,” Israel Club President Shlomo Anapolle remarked. Even among the gruesome images of violence that have been released recently, what sticks most with Mr. Anapolle are the images of Jews coming together to show strength and support, both in Israel and abroad.