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Jewish students congregated to show support for Israel, honor the fallen

Hundreds of ASU students gathered to show support for Israel, spread awareness about recent violence and bring their community together


ASU students and community members gather to watch speakers during a vigil in support of Israel in front of the Student Services Building on Wednesday Oct. 11, 2023 in Tempe.

Students, faculty and other members of the Jewish and Israeli communities gathered in solidarity following recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The event was held on Wednesday at the Student Services Lawn on the Tempe campus. The event was put together by the five Jewish organizations at ASU: Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Epsilon Phi, the Hillel Jewish Student Center, Chabad at ASU and Olami ASU

 "The university has reached out to all students from the affected areas to offer support and help," the University said in a statement on Tuesday. "ASU is a place where diverse opinions and perspectives are valued, and we encourage respectful conversations that promote mutual understanding and empathy." 

"Students are angry, sad, confused, fearful: name an emotion, and we’ve heard it," said Debbie Yunker Kail, executive director of the Hillel Jewish Center at ASU. "Students are coming together. When there’s tragedy, we want to be with one another."

Jewish students from across ASU came together bearing Israeli flags and dressed in blue and white expressing their emotions and standing together as a community. Signs and flags were provided by the organizations. They also performed the ritual of tefillin, where leather bands coming out of two black boxes are wrapped around a person’s arm and head in prayer. 

After the initial congregation, the group gathered around a series of speakers sharing personal stories and connections to the recent conflict. The crowd participated in prayers, singing traditional Jewish songs and encouraged the community to stay strong and be there for one another during these times. 

The speaker series was followed by a candle-lit vigil said to honor the fallen victims of the attacks, with each candle representing a human soul. 

Many students at the event said they have family members in Israel whom they have been in contact with as the violence continues.

Ilanit Rosenbloom, a freshman studying computer systems engineering, said she was frustrated by the lack of response and support from some of her non-Jewish peers. 

"I felt really angry, not just because of what was going on, but because of the way a lot of people I trusted and followed were reacting in support of these events," Rosenbloom said.

"I woke up today seeing texts from my grandma saying that she’s terrified," said Yoni Shabtay, a freshman studying business management. "My grandma is an old lady that lives alone in her apartment in northern Israel, terrified because there are rocket sirens going on."

ASU students and community members participate in a candlelight vigil in front of the Student Services Building on Wednesday Oct. 11, 2023 in Tempe.

Shabtay said the vigil was not about taking a political stance on the overall conflict, but about recognizing the tragedies that occurred and show support for those still suffering. 

"You can be on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, your political views, all that stuff. We’re not here for that today," Shabtay said. "What we’re here for today is to raise awareness about the blatant human rights violations that were committed this past weekend."

Shy-Lee Ben Ezer, a junior studying data science said she is continually receiving news of the deaths of her loved ones in the region.

"Right now, I feel like I’m out of tears, but they come and go all the time," Ben Ezer said. "Two days ago, we received the official news of the death of my cousin." 

Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, director of Chabad at ASU, said the resilience of his community was shown in the turnout to this event, and that it will endure because of the community's bond.

"I feel uplifted, I feel energized and I feel true unity," Tiechtel said. "I feel we have a truly united community who’s stronger together. I look forward to making this world brighter, more positive and more wonderful."

Editor's note: The State Press is committed to fair coverage of our campus community. To read more about other perspectives on the ongoing conflict, click here. 

Edited by Alysa Horton, Shane Brennan, Jasmine Kabiri and Angelina Steel

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