Office of the President

Thoughts on the Pittsburgh Tragedy

October 29, 2018

Dear Oberlin Community Members,

Having recently come back from international travel, I am always moved by our common spirit and our collective humanity despite our varying views of the world. Once again, however, I was met upon my return with a series of events that have challenged me to see the world as I wish it to be, and not as it is.

As I learned of the murders at the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh I was left, like many of you, grieving for the victims and their families and wondering what world we have wrought. This tragedy has hit closer to home because a relative of an Oberlin student was among those killed in this heinous attack. On behalf of the Oberlin community, I extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the student and their family, to the congregation of the Tree of Life, and to Jewish communities in Pittsburgh, Oberlin and around the world.

Oberlin is a community that seeks to make positive change in the world. Acts of violence are the antithesis of who we are and what we believe to be true. When those acts of violence are turned towards people of different races, religions, and creeds we condemn them in the strongest possible terms. Racism and anti-Semitism have no place in the world that we strive to create.

It is important when our values are under siege to reaffirm our commitment to equality and inclusion and to stand united against hatred and oppression and the violence spawned by bigotry, tribalism and stereotyping. These are such turbulent times in our country. The political discourse seems increasingly coarse and polarized. The murders in Pittsburgh came shortly after a man in Florida was arrested for sending pipe bombs to political leaders and journalists, and just days after an avowed racist shot two black people in a grocery store in Kentucky.

But even as we lament these turbulent times and condemn and reject the violence that has arisen, we can never let hate triumph over our shared humanity. We will continue our efforts to seek a shared understanding, to discuss our deepest differences with respect and compassion, and to respond to hatred with love. I know that this can make a difference in our world.

While we respond in love to a world that sometimes feels full of hatred, we do so in remembrance of the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Our students are organizing a vigil this week in honor of the victims at Tree of Life. And please know that there are a range of resources on campus to support you during this difficult time. This includes the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Jewish Life Affiliates, SHARE advisors in the Dean of Students office, and the Counseling Center (including after-hours phone support).

Carmen Twillie Ambar
President, Oberlin College