saturday's antisemitic attack at the tree of life synagogue a message from the jewish studies program
Dear colleagues and students,
On Saturday eleven people were murdered while gathered at the Tree of Life/Or L'Simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh. The mass murder happened during a bris, a ceremony to welcome an infant into the Jewish community. It was the deadliest antisemitic attack in the history of the United States.
The Jewish Studies Program at UC Davis stands in grief with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh in across the country. We express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, many of whom were elders, and those who were injured, including the first responders trying to stop the shooter. We also recognize and stand in empathy with those in our community whose safety and dignity is under threat.
At a time when antisemitism has been emboldened and hate crimes against many marginalized groups are on the rise, as scholars of Jewish history and culture, we also note the deep and deadly links between white supremacy, nativism, and antisemitism. One of the explicit motivations for the attack was that Jewish organizations work to support immigrants and refugees. HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) is a refugee organization founded in 1881 to assist Jewish refugees fleeing from persecution to find safety and support. HIAS has since expanded its mission to aid refugees of every background. Last week Tree of Life participated in the organization's National Refugee Shabbat, a network of Shabbat services crossing denominational divisions that used the Torah portion Lech lecha, the beginning of Abraham’s journeys, as an opportunity to reflect on the global refugee crisis. HIAS centers the command to welcome the stranger in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy as a primary Jewish value.
The symbol of the “Tree of Life,” in Jewish culture, has long represented the pursuit of knowledge. The Jewish Studies Program at UC Davis is dedicated to knowledge of Jewish culture and history, to dispelling ignorance and prejudice, and to the pursuit of truth and understanding. Today, in our grief and in our condemnation of antisemitism, xenophobia, and white supremacist violence, we recommit ourselves to this work.
Interim Director, Jewish Studies Program
Department of Religious Studies
Every year the Kunitz Award honors the best undergraduate work in the field of Jewish Studies. This award was made possible by donations from the family, friends and community of Don Kunitz, a librarian at UC Davis.
2018 winners in the research paper category are Josie Kamida, Ethan Kogon-Schneider, and Oswaldo Vargas. Prizes in the short paper category were awarded to Noah Scheindlin and Maddie Thomas. Finally, Bardia Eshghi and Danielle Schwartz received honorable mentions!
Every year the Program in Jewish Studies awards a $1,000 undergraduate scholarship to a student who pursues a Minor in Jewish Studies. This year we are very excited to honor our outstanding Micah Lesch! Read his essay below.