Various Israeli and Jewish student organizations held a vigil on the grounds of the Anne Frank Center on Tuesday to honor the people who have died in recent attacks on the Gaza strip.
The organizations that were involved in organizing the vigil were Gamecocks for Israel, University of South Carolina Hillel, the Gamma Chi chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi and Chabad at USC.
The ongoing conflict has left students, faculty, staff and community members, fearful for what might happen to their families and friends that still live in Israel.
“On Saturday, Oct. 7, while the majority of citizens had a normal Saturday, we stopped, said Madelyn Miller, former president of USC Hillel. "We were frozen to the news and watch what was unraveling on the other side of the world. Since then, there have been 24/7 updates on the terror and evil that has consumed Israel and Gaza.”
USC students that represented on-campus Jewish organizations said they have family and friends in Israel that have been injured or killed as well as more that have had to flee or have had their homes destroyed.
“I opened Instagram, and I saw my best friend from preschool in the hospital," said Noy Barel, the vice president of Gamecocks for Israel. "I saw her boyfriend attached to tubes because of the actions of Hamas terrorists. I texted my dad about my friends in the hospital, to which he said, ‘Safer in the hospital than on the field,’ only to learn that that same hospital in Ashkelon was bombed the following day."
Local community members, such as Evan Lowsky, a USC almnus and current board of trustees member for the Columbia Jewish Federation, spoke at the vigil and urged for unity and strength among those present.
“We are a community that needs to stand strong," Lowsky said. "The atrocious attacks that happened from Hamas more than a week ago show that there's a hatred for who we are. They were not attacked because they are 'occupiers.' They were attacked because they are Jewish.”
Student speakers that were present at the vigil also echoed the calls for unity that were made by community members and urged those present to continue to use their voice to speak out on how the current conflict has affected them.
“Stand tall and strong," said Bari Klarberg, the president of the USC chapter of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi. "Stand united. Stand with our home no matter what.”
Barel said that the university body needs to understand how painful it is for students who are directly affected by the fighting.
“I've just seen the pain with all the students here on campus," Barel said. "And it's very clear that Israelis and Jewish people — we want peace, and we've tried to have peace. And it just — it breaks our heart how much this is affecting all of us here.”
The student leaders each voiced a similar theme throughout the vigil: It is important to remain united and come together in order to remember the lives that have been lost. This helps shine a light on Israel and the Jewish people, according to Meir Muller, an ordained Rabbi and assistnat professor of early childhood education.
"When this is all over, we will have time to cry," Muller said. "For now, be well, pray for our success and peace, and stand together. Tonight, for this moment, let us shed labels. We are not faculty or staff or graduates and undergraduates. Even, we're not the president of the university. Tonight, we are one group praying for the success and peace for our dear country, Israel.”