Dear Wake Forest Community,
Tragic and violent events last week cast a dark and troubling shadow over our nation. Explosives sent to people with dissenting political views, the killing of two African Americans at a grocery store in Kentucky, and the deaths of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh have left members of the Wake Forest University community filled with confusion, anger, despair, hopelessness and grief. For some members of our community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, the massacre at Tree of Life is the culmination of a persistent rise in antisemitism on U.S. college campuses.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, reports of antisemitism on college campuses increased 89% between 2016 and 2017, on top of a 34% increase between 2015 and 2016. These reports of antisemitism include assaults, vandalism, and harassment of – or against – Jewish students, staff, and faculty. Our campus has not been immune to these acts, including the recent defacement of posters in the Scales Fine Arts building where advertisements for a “Music of Three Faiths” program had the Star of David cut out. Members of the Wake Forest community, particularly from marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds, experience these harmful acts not merely as assaults on existential or philosophical ways of living, but on the very fabric of who they are and the aspects of their identities that they hold most salient.
Opportunities for action
In these and future moments when we might feel most alone or isolated, let us live out the words from Dr. Hatch’s recent message to “renew our efforts to reach out to others and seek to understand and bridge differences.” Employ the skills learned in a Bystander Intervention Training, use the Bias Reporting system, and lean on lessons learned and taught in our families, communities, and houses of worship. We can all do more to support each other in the aftermath of troubling events, small in scope or vast in impact.
In that spirit, Temple Emanuel of Winston Salem has organized the Vigil in Solidarity and Support today from 6-7:30 p.m.
In addition, Wake Forest students, in collaboration with the Office of Jewish Life, are organizing a vigil and candle-lighting Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. to take place on the Manchester Plaza stage area.
For those in our community wondering “what can I do?” or “where can I go?” or “how do I show support?” take heart in the concept of Tikkun Olam – meaning “acts of kindness performed to repair the world” in Hebrew.” The vigils taking place over the next few days are good places to start answering those questions and engaging in acts of healing and reconciliation. And Wake Foresters – students, faculty, staff, and alumni – should also strive to sustain this support for one another. Now and in the days to come, this commitment to outreach and valuing all members of our community is a meaningful way to honor the lives lost this past Saturday.
Yours in support,
Provost Rogan Kersh
Vice President, Campus Life Penny Rue
Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion José Villalba