Carnegie Mellon University

Presidential Remarks at Community Gathering 
October 29, 2018
Rangos Auditorium 

Good evening and thank you all for being here.

Tonight, we gather as a community united in heartbreak. Our Jewish neighbors and friends were targets of an unspeakable act of violence. A hate crime motivated by anti-Semitism. A tragedy that claimed the lives of 11 innocent men and women and injured several others, including our first responders. 

I want to take a moment to address our Jewish students, colleagues and neighbors:

    • We love you. 
    • We support you. 
    • You are not alone – we will surround you and protect you. 

 In the wake of this profound tragedy, we stand TOGETHER as a CMU community to honor the lives that were lost. 

We stand TOGETHER to seek and offer comfort.

We stand TOGETHER in solidarity with the Jewish community and with the city of Pittsburgh. 

And TOGETHER, we speak out in one loud voice AGAINST bigotry and hatred in ALL forms. We reaffirm our commitment to compassion, inclusion, and respect. These are the values that are core to Carnegie Mellon University – and we need to display and defend them NOW more than ever. 

Let me be clear: We condemn this evil. We reject bigotry and hate speech. They have NO place in our community. 

Such acts of unimaginable violence affect us on many different levels – as individuals, as a community, and as a nation. 

On a personal level, we EACH have a gut-wrenching reaction to such atrocity – to the inescapable shadow this casts upon our souls. 

If you are a neighbor, you probably walk or drive by Tree of Life every day.

If you are a member of the Jewish faith, you are experiencing this tragedy on a profoundly personal and emotional level. 

I also know that MANY in the CMU community are members of Tree of Life, Dor Hadash, or New Light congregations. For you, this violence feels as RAW and as REAL as an attack on your own home.   

I saw Joyce Fienberg, one of Saturday’s victims, at Friday’s symposium on campus. We spoke for a few minutes. We talked about how much her late husband and university professor, Steve, would have enjoyed the panel on CMU’s impact in Pittsburgh. 

Joyce and Steve were such beloved members of the CMU community. 

For me, it’s a poignant reminder of just HOW IMPORTANT our everyday interactions really are. And just how FRAGILE life can be.  

There is a second layer to how we experience these tragedies – that is, as a community.

Carnegie Mellon University and its surrounding neighborhoods are intertwined. We depend upon each other, and we support each other. There are many personal connections between and within our communities, and these connections reinforce our common bonds, our shared humanity.

So, when our neighbors are targeted for such hatred and violence, it sends shockwaves throughout our community and shakes us to our CORE. As we process our sadness, we must EMBRACE that sense of community on our path towards healing. We will find comfort in one another.

While on the topic of community, I would like to recognize the bravery of our first responders and law enforcement, including our own CMU Police. Please join me in thanking the brave men and women who keep our community safe every day.  

And finally, we feel this devastation on a national level. 

This is not just an attack on our local community – this is an attack on our VERY WAY OF LIFE as Americans and the values upon which this nation was founded.  

This is a DIRECT assault on our freedom of religion, on our freedom of assembly, and on our freedom of speech. 

It is PARTICULARLY offensive that such violence happened in a place of peace and community  . . . in a house of worship during services.

Unfortunately, we have seen MULTIPLE acts of violence across our nation just in the past week. 

Just three days before this attack on our own community, there was a racially-motivated crime in Kentucky that claimed the lives of two African Americans who were simply shopping at a grocery store. 

But we will NOT let these acts of bigotry undermine our democratic values. We will NOT let them sow fear in our community. And we will NOT let the hatred of OTHERS overshadow the love we show for one another every day.

Our community is strong, resilient, and united. A place where ALL are welcome, where empathy, compassion, inclusion and respect are embedded into our very foundation. 

There is no more important time to join hands with one another and showcase those values to the world. We must remember: the tree of life is rooted in LOVE, not fear. And we must tend to, and nurture, those roots EVERY DAY. 

At times like these, let us look to the people in our lives who bring us comfort and support. To one another. 

It’s NORMAL to want to talk about how you’re feeling. It’s OK to ask for help. 

You are not alone. I encourage you to lean on each other and freely offer love and compassion to others. Through this closeness and connectedness, we will begin the process of healing.

And that is why we are here this evening. 

 Once again, I want to thank you for being here. During our short program, members of our community will offer prayers for peace – for shalom – as well as their reflections on the events of this past weekend.

At this time, I am honored to introduce Rabbi Jamie Gibson, who is the senior rabbi at Temple Sinai and also a proud parent of a CMU alum. Rabbi Gibson?