Jewish organizations at UCLA host vigil honoring lives lost in recent attacks
Pictured is a layout of candles at a vigil, which was held in Bruin Plaza by Jewish organizations at UCLA on Wednesday night. (Constanza Montemayor/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Hundreds of people attended a vigil Wednesday evening in Bruin Plaza to honor the lives lost in attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.
The vigil, which was hosted at 7 p.m. by several Jewish organizations, included speeches from members of the UCLA community, prayers for people in Israel and the singing of the Israeli national anthem. The vigil followed attacks Saturday on Israeli towns, for which Hamas – a militant group and political party from Palestine – took credit, according to the Associated Press. The attack was followed by continued rocket attacks by Hamas and Israeli air strikes on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip throughout the week.
Kian Kohanteb, a third-year political science student who helped organize the vigil, said he felt it was important to unify the Jewish community in mourning. The vigil was a chance for students to grieve, Kohanteb said, adding that he feels many Jewish students are emotional about recent deaths and want to come together.
He added that the vigil was not held with a political agenda and was open to people regardless of their political or religious backgrounds.
“This isn’t a political rally. This isn’t a demonstration,” Kohanteb said. “I think it’s really important to just bring the Jewish community and the large community of allies around together.”
Kohanteb said the attack particularly saddened him because it happened during Simchat Torah – a holiday that marks a new annual cycle of Torah readings – as well as the Sabbath, the weekly day of rest observed by the Jewish community on Saturdays. He added that he is scared for family members who have now been called to serve in the Israeli armed forces following the attacks.
Molly Gurland, a first-year English student, said she attended the vigil because she wanted to be around other Jewish people when mourning to both feel their support and offer her own. She added that her great-uncle, who lives in a village near the Gaza Strip, had been missing for over 48 hours at the time of the vigil.
Sienna Janes, a third-year public affairs and sociology student, said that despite not being a Jewish student, she wanted to support her Jewish friends who have people close to them in Israel. She added that she felt the vigil was also an important reminder of unity during a difficult time.
Janes, who also went on a trip to Israel with Hillel at UCLA, said she also fears for the people she met while visiting the region.
“I’m here to pray for all the innocent people that have been caught in the middle of the crossfire on both sides,” she said.
Many Jewish students also raised concerns about reactions to the conflict.
Nathan Maryamian, a student at the University of Southern California, said he traveled across town to attend the vigil because he felt it was a powerful statement against anti-Jewish sentiments around the world.
Ben Reihanian, a first-year undeclared student, added that over the last couple of days, he has faced a difficult decision in whether to display his identity as a Jewish person of Israeli heritage because of his fears of potential antisemitism on campus.
“One of the first things my mom told me is to hide my Magen David (Star of David) necklace on campus … so that I’m not seen, and I don’t become a victim of something that might happen here,” he said.
Joseph Sarvian, a fourth-year business economics student, said that while he does not expect people to take sides on the issue, he thinks it is important that people posting on social media understand the history behind the conflict.
Gurland also said not all people in Israel agree with the Israeli government’s historic stance on Palestine.
“I have lots of family in Israel of whom have been protesting their own government for years, of whom support Palestinian rights, of whom did not support the treatment that they’ve (Palestinians have) been receiving,” she added.
Kayla Hayempour, a third-year public affairs student, said she wanted to attend the vigil because she wanted to oppose the violence, particularly following the antisemitism she feels she has seen from those around her.
“With the world filled with such hatred right now, I want to be surrounded by other people from a similar community who also share similar values,” she said. “I’m here to feel connected with those around me and to take a stand against violence.”