Jewish prayer draws more than 100 attendees after ‘difficult week’ for community

Media Credit: Arielle Bader | Hatchet Photographer

Hillel Zand, president of the Jewish Students Association, and Miriam Young light Havdallah candles Saturday night.

More than 100 students, local residents and alumni gathered in the rain to celebrate Havdallah – the Jewish ceremony marking the end of Shabbat – in Kogan Plaza Saturday night.

Former Student Association Senator Joe Vogel organized a community Havdallah in Kogan Plaza after what he said was a “difficult week” for the Jewish community on campus. Students from nearby Georgetown and American universities joined students, alumni, parents and community members at the prayer. Rabbis from Chabad Colonials and GW Hillel also attended the event.

The SA Senate voted not to censure Sen. Brady Forrest, G-at-Large, earlier this week for Facebook comments posted in 2014 that students called anti-Semitic. At the same meeting, the SA Senate passed a pro-Palestinian divestment resolution that calls for the University to divest from nine companies that sell weapons and other services to the Israeli government, allegedly contributing to Palestinian oppression.

The group created multiple circles around the clock tower with their arms around each other’s shoulders, swaying to prayers. Throughout the event, which lasted about an hour, attendees danced and clapped along to music.

Steph Black, a student at American University, came to the prayer event with her friends and spoke to the crowd, telling GW students that students at American recognize them and stand with them.

“Seeing the heartbreak and the pain that has been in the Jewish community for the past however many weeks has been heartbreaking for us to see,” Black said. “I keep thinking how great it is that we can be a Jewish community even though we go to different schools and even though we are across D.C.”

Some students stood on the clock tower pedestal with special Havdallah candles and a guitar, leading the crowd in prayers and songs. After the students put out the candles with grape juice, marking the end of Shabbat, Hillel Zand, the president of the Jewish Student Association, spoke to the crowd.

“In 2050, GW students will be here and they won’t know who exactly was here, what exactly happened, what color the Havdallah candle is,” Zand said. “But they’ll know the story and they will know that hundreds of Jews and people of the GW community came out and stood against anti-Semitism and stood for their identity, and that’s what’s most important.”

A protest against the SA Senate’s decision not to censure Forrest occurred in the same location Wednesday, where students stood on the clock tower in Kogan Plaza in silence for 1,986 seconds, or 33 minutes, to represent the 1,986 anti-Semitic attacks recorded in 2017, student leaders who organized the event said.

Ian Hourican, a junior who said he is not Jewish, said he went to the prayer because he wanted to show his Jewish friends and the Jewish community that they are supported.

“It was amazing, it was definitely a time of coming together for everyone,” Hourican said. “Not being Jewish, being Christian, I felt completely welcomed. It was great to see how everyone just felt better being here, being together, it was an awesome opportunity.”

Attendees said they saw this event as a celebration of their Jewish heritage and an opportunity to come together as a community.

“I think it’s always awesome to see these Jewish students come together and celebrate our collective heritage and our shared values,” Vogel said.

At the end of the event, the audience cheered as Vogel stood on the clock tower and thanked participants for attending.

“Thank you for helping us start a new and better week,” Vogel said. “And may we all be inspired to go spread light into the world.”

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