Chatham Holds Interfaith Service and Vigil for Tree of Life

On Thursday, November 1, 2018, hundreds of members of the Chatham community gathered at Chatham’s pond for an Interfaith Service and Vigil to commemorate the lives lost in the Tree of Life Synagogue shootings, and to recognize Chatham’s enduring ties and friendship with the Jewish community.  

The ties between Chatham University and Tree of Life are longstanding and have grown over the last two years. One of the victims, Daniel Stein, was part of Dr. Tony Goreczny’s research project to enhance services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Congregation members have had a long tradition of walking to Chatham’s pond during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and symbolically casting off sins of the previous year by throwing pieces of bread into the water. Members of the Chatham family have also been congregants at Tree of Life and the Congregation Dor Hadash that worships at Tree of Life for many decades.   

The ceremony began with stirring renditions of "Schindler's List" by John Williams and “Amazing Grace” performed by a string quartet. The first speaker was Sue Finegold speaking on behalf of Dr. Finegold who was out of the country at the time. After Sue, Director of Multicultural Affairs Randi Congleton and Fernando Soriano, president of Chatham Student Government, shared a few words.

“Love is stronger than hate, Pittsburgh is stronger than hate, Chatham is stronger than hate.”
- Randi Congleton, PhD

 Next, local multi-faith leaders shared their support and wishes for peace. Speakers included:

Juliet Casinelli, Chatham Volunteer Chaplain, Coalition for Christian Outreach
Wasi Mohamed, Executive Director, Islamic Center of Pittsburgh
Karie Charlton, Associate Pastor, Third Presbyterian Church
Pastor Brian Bennett, PSALM and the Lutheran Campus Ministry in Greater Pittsburgh
Pastor Shawn Collins, Bridge City Church East Liberty Campus

The final speaker was Rabbi Shmuel Weinstein, Director of Chabad House at Chatham. Following Rabbi Weinstein, there was a moment of silence while Chatham community representatives rang a bell 11 times.

The whole world
is a very narrow bridge
And the main thing is to have no fear at all.

- Kol Ha'olam Kulo, by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Following the 11th chime, attendees walked to the Tree of Life, where Chatham representatives left a wreath constructed from 11 species of campus flora to commemorate each victim, along with other symbols of support.