Jewish campus organizations — Chabad, Texas Hillel — help students cope with San Diego shooting aftermath

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Zev Johnson | Daily Texan Staff

Chabad Jewish Student Center and Texas Hillel, both Jewish campus organizations, are reassessing security measures following a shooting on April 27 in a synagogue in the San Diego area.

Specific security precautions are not shared with the public as a safety measure in order to prevent the centers from being targeted, according to both organizations. Zev Johnson, the Rabbi for UT’s Chabad, said Chabad, an orthodox Jewish organization with chapters at 500 campuses, is in contact with the UT Police Department, Austin Police Department and national security agencies. Johnson said Chabad values facilitating conversations as well.

“I have been available for counseling with students,” Johnson said. “A lot of students have wanted to express themselves and their sentiments.”

Ethan Robinson, supply chain management sophomore, said these centers are crucial to Jewish life on campus.

“Judaism stresses the importance of each individual soul,” Robinson said. “Chabad and Hillel bring the community together to feel comfortable in these times of distress.”

Robinson is on the executive board at Chabad and is a campus engagement intern at Hillel, an international Jewish campus organization. He said he remembers the vigil honoring individual Pittsburgh shooting victims six months ago. 

Maiya Chard-Yaron, executive director for UT’s Hillel, said Hillel trains its student leaders to prepare for emergencies such as active shooter situations. 

“When we think about security, the safety of our students is our top priority,” Chard-Yaron said. 

Chard-Yaron said students also reached out to her to discuss the San Diego shooting. 

“When there is rising antisemitism and hate, it’s a big concern for our students,” Chard-Yaron said. “We want to provide them with a place to talk about what it means to be a Jewish student on campus and in the world today.”

Hillel hosted Mimouna, a Moroccan Jewish celebration, the day following the San Diego shooting. Chard-Yaron said they had a full house. 

Johnson is pushing for a moment of silence on campus to provoke thought around these events. 

“A moment of silence in school is not to mandate any particular prayer but to have the ability to have every student have a moment of silence to think, to meditate, to contemplate, to pray,” Johnson said. “We want people to be a little more mindful of what is going on in this world and to increase acts of innocence and kindness, and that’s where we are focusing right now.”