Kellen Stepler | Staff Writer
It has been a little over a week since the Tree of Life shooting in Squirrel Hill, but support from the Pittsburgh community – and beyond – has been abundant.
Groups and organizations on Duquesne’s campus are supporting the Tree of Life synagogue after the shooting in any way they can. The Mary Pappert School of Music donated proceeds from a concert to the synagogue, Duquesne sorority Alpha Sigma Tau (AST) donated leftover budget funds and Duquesne fraternities Phi Kappa Theta and Sigma Nu are selling Pittsburgh Strong bracelets to support the synagogue.
On Friday, Nov. 2, ticket sales from the concert, The Music of Billy Strayhorn, were donated to the synagogue. The concert featured the Duquesne Jazz Ensemble, directed by Mike Tomaro; Jazz Workshop, directed by Jeff Bush and Vocal Jazz Ensemble, directed by Kelley Krepin DeFade.
Jane Cubbison, office manager of the school of music, and Steve Groves, manager of musical events, came up with the idea to make the concert a benefit for the synagogue.
Billy Strayhorn, one of “Pittsburgh’s greatest musical icons” according to Tomaro, was raised in Braddock and then Homewood from the age of five.
Seth Beckman, dean of the Mary Pappert School of Music, thought making the previously-scheduled concert a benefit for the synagogue was “a wonderful idea, especially considering that Billy Strayhorn – an internationally prominent musician who had a tremendous impact on his (and future) generations – was a native Pittsburgher known for bringing people together through his artistry.”
Beckman hoped that the concert could be a place for our community to come together and celebrate life through music.
Music is considered a universal language that, regardless of one’s own background, has the power to convey what words alone cannot do in any language.
“We hope that our musical offerings lift the spirits of those who have been directly or indirectly affected by this tragedy,” Beckman said.
“It is a proven fact the music has healing powers and so our concert seemed to be a great way to assist in this process,” Tomaro said.
Additionally, Duquesne Greek Life took action to support the Tree of Life synagogue and those affected by the shooting.
AST announced its efforts to help during its annual Miss Duquesne Pageant on Saturday, Nov. 3, which benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“Even though our philanthropy is Make-A-Wish, we did not feel right ignoring a cause that was so close to home. Many girls thought that we should contribute in some way to the Tree of Life synagogue to help this community,” said Kacie Flannigan, AST director of philanthropy and co-chair of the Miss Duquesne Pageant. “Bringing light to these victims is very important because this is our city, and we wanted to help in any way we could.”
Fraternities Phi Kappa Theta and Sigma Nu began selling black-and-yellow Pittsburgh Strong bracelets from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, and will continue to do so through Friday, Nov. 9 on the third floor of the Union. The bracelets cost two dollars.
In addition to these dates, the bracelets will be sold on Nov. 10, during the men’s football and basketball game and on Nov. 12 at the men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader.
Jake Nowark, philanthropy chair of Phi Kappa Theta, and his roommate, Zach Laros of Sigma Nu, came together with the idea to create a joint effort between the two fraternities.
Nicolas Jozefczyk, president of Phi Kappa Theta and A&E writer for The Duke, said, “The idea to raise money after this tragedy seemed only natural.”
Nowark said that the goal of the fundraiser is “to raise money and awareness for this tragedy among Duquesne’s campus, and it has turned into something more than we ever thought it would.”
“We hope to raise over $300 as a tangible goal, but more than that we hope to aid in creating a culture of brother and sisterhood to the point where people know that there is always someone to help them in their time of need,” Alex Burns, president of Sigma Nu, said.
A larger event is in the works for the future. David DeFelice, president of Duquesne’s Jewish Student Organization (JSO), is currently planning an event tentatively set for March 18, 2019, that will tackle the issue of anti-Semitism and the First Amendment.
“We will ask questions like, what is hate speech? What can be censored? And what can we do to stop anti-Semitism, while maintaining free speech?” DeFelice said. “We will have representatives from the ADL, Jewish Federation and a few academics on constitutional law.”
DeFelice adds that while the Jewish community in Pittsburgh is already rather close-knit, he thinks that this event will bring them even closer.
“Our Duquesne community will continue to rely on one another and help the larger community heal in any way we can,” DeFelice said.
The Jewish Law Students Association and the JSO co-hosted a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the victims on Wednesday, Nov. 7, on A-Walk, followed by a dinner in the campus ministry.
Supporting others through events like this is just another part of Duquesne’s mission.
“Our institution and Spiritan Fathers have always valued community and community engagement. This is as true today as it was when our institution was founded,” Beckman said. “Our new university strategic plan reinforces this fact as well, detailing an imperative that stresses the significance of deepening authentic alliances throughout our community — including other faith-based entities.”