SGB stands behind Jewish community


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

SGB President Maggie Kennedy addresses this weekend’s shooting at Tuesday’s weekly public meeting.

By Emily Wolfe, Staff Writer

Kathryn Fleisher wants to make sure last weekend’s massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue won’t be forgotten.

“Our community is still mourning,” Fleisher, a sophomore majoring in GSWS and politics and philosophy double major, said. “We’re still attending funerals, we’re still doing all that we can to keep attention on this and talk about anti-Semitism, hate and gun violence prevention.”

As the members of Pitt’s Jewish community begin the long, slow task of healing in the aftermath of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, the Student Government Board has placed itself firmly behind the healing efforts of the community.

Four Jewish students, including Fleisher, stopped by Tuesday’s public SGB meeting to thank board members for their support, and to implore everyone not to let the story fade.

“We are really committed to not letting this be something that we just talk about for a day or a week,” Fleisher said. “That we let life move on, but that we don’t take this off our radar.”

She was joined by three other students — junior economics and statistics major Sam Ressin, senior social work major Sophie Tannenbaum and sophomore film studies and English literature major Lindsey Aranson— when she addressed the room during an open floor segment of SGB’s weekly public meeting. All four are members of Hillel, the largest Jewish organization on campus.

At the beginning of the meeting, they joined in one minute of silence called by President Maggie Kennedy to recognize the shooting.

“I know the greater Pittsburgh community, the Pitt community and specifically the Jewish community is experiencing a major loss right now,” Kennedy said.  

Hours after the shooting, SGB, in a joint statement with the College of General Studies and Graduate and Professional Student Governments, responded with shock and support.

“Our Student Governments at Pitt are heartbroken to see something so horrific occur so close to our home and affect so many in our community,” the statement read. “We firmly believe this was a hateful terrorist act with clear anti-semitic motivations and we do not tolerate this kind of thinking on our campus, in our city, or anywhere.”

Several organizations on campus have created fundraisers for Tree of Life or planned events for this week. Kennedy highlighted a few of the events coming in the next few days, including Hillel’s Make a Difference Day on Sunday, Nov. 4, open to all students, and an open Shabbat service Chabad at Pitt will host in the William Pitt Union this Friday night, which she said several board members plan to attend.

Kennedy also noted that Pitt’s Greek organizations have banded together to create “Pitt Stands Against Hate,” a fundraiser for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the refugee aid organization HIAS and the first responders who were at Saturday’s crime scene. The GoFundMe page raised more than $3,000 in its first day.

The board has collected links to various other fundraisers, events and resources on its Facebook page.

Ritika Bajpai, chair of the Community and Governmental Relations Committee, added that SGB’s upcoming annual food drive, which will run Nov. 5-19, will donate a portion of the food it collects to the Tree of Life Synagogue. Other donation locations will include the Pitt Pantry, Community Human Services and the Homewood-Brushton YMCA.

“It’s been heartwarming seeing our community come together and help each other to heal,” Bajpai said.

Ressin wanted to express his gratitude to the board for showing its support of the Jewish community in the wake of the attack.

“These past few days for all of us have been just very devastating, to know that something like this could happen in our community,” Ressin said, “and to see student government advertise the events of Hillel, of Chabad, of ways to show their support to the Tree of Life synagogue … I cannot express how meaningful that was.”

Ressin pointed specifically to board member Albert Tanjaya, saying it comforted him to see Tanjaya at Sunday’s vigil. He also thanked Kennedy for her leadership.

“The president is here this week,” Ressin told Kennedy. “I think he needs to learn from you what being a leader looks like and having some empathy, and I mean that sincerely. You have really stepped up for us and we are so grateful.”

Kennedy thanked Ressin and his fellow Hillel members for coming to the meeting. SGB wants to do everything it can to help students recover from the tragedy, she said.

“We don’t want it to stop after this week,” she said. “This is clearly something that has been going on for a long, long time, so we do want to be there for you all moving forward … Thank you for your strength in the face of such hatred.”

“Anything [students] do, whether it’s big or small—” Fleisher said.

“It matters,” Ressin finished. “We notice.”

“Also, vote,” Fleisher added.


Pitt Archery requested $1,759.04 to attend a competition. The board approved in full.

The Club Powerlifting Team requested $4,555.16 to purchase equipment. The board approved in full.

The Club Cross Country Team requested $2,330.28 to attend a competition. The board approved in full.

oSTEM requested $1,606.20 to attend a conference. The board approved in full.

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