Ming DeMers/Sun Assistant Photo Editor

Members of the Cornell and greater Ithaca community attended the Cornell Hillel Community Gathering in Anabel Taylor Hall on Nov. 1.

November 6, 2023

Cornell Hillel Hosts Community Gathering in Response to Antisemitic Threats at Cornell, Violence in Israel

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Singing echoed throughout Anabel Taylor Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 1, as approximately 40 people — including Cornell students, city of Ithaca residents and rabbis from local synagogues — came together in celebration of community and shared faith. 

Cornell Hillel hosted the gathering, named “Community Gathering for Comfort, Healing and Solidarity.” The event brought together “the Jewish community from Cornell and the greater Ithaca Jewish community and [their] many allies to sing and uplift each other in these scary times,” according to the original event flier.

Over the past two weeks, Cornell community members have held largely peaceful rallies and vigils from both pro-Palestine and pro-Israel groups. However, the University also saw incidents of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist graffiti, as well as threatening and hateful antisemitic and anti-Muslim speech posted online. Patrick Dai ’24 has been charged in connection to the antisemitic threats.

Emily Block, managing director of Cornell Hillel, told The Sun the purpose of the event was to bring Cornell and the greater Ithaca area together in “solidarity and strength of the Jewish community.” 

“The community is really working through the stages of grief,” Block said. “It’s been very challenging.”

Block said that she often interacts with students and tries to support them as best she can, being aware of the current emotions on campus. She recalled a student likening hatred on campus to a snake.

“I feel like [hatred on campus] is like a snake. We keep cutting off its head, and it keeps coming back bigger and stronger,” Block said, recounting the words the student said to her. “I think the events of this week were the culmination of that.”

For Block, Wednesday’s event was crucial to acknowledge and contend with the emotions on campus.

“I think there’s a tremendous sense of sadness. People are feeling just deeply sad about what’s happening right now both on campus and in Israel,” Block said. “And I also think… there’s anger in different ways, whether it’s anger at one another for campus tensions, or just anger at the situation. And I think that events like this are so deeply important because they provide an outlet of emotion — in particular, grief — in a way that’s healthy and productive.”

Rabbi Talia Laster, a campus rabbi and organizer of the event, told The Sun that she expressed her well wishes for Dai’s mental health while sharing her concerns about the Jewish community being targeted on campus.

“I wish [Dai] well. I know that people on campus sometimes struggle with mental health, and I hope he is able to get the support he needs,” Laster said. “Of course, it’s really scary when people target the Jewish community, and we’ve been really scared.” 

After the singing, all attendees were asked to write on post-its to share notes expressing their encouragement and hope and describing their experiences.

Following the event, many participants stayed to talk with community members. People discussed their experiences over these past weeks, future events hosted by Hillel and the Jewish community on campus and how to continue to support each other. 

Throughout the event, rabbis, students and community members spoke words of encouragement and hope for their community. Attendees also shared their personal experiences, feelings and concerns, fostering a sense of unity and mutual support among those in attendance. 

“We’re resilient people,” Laster said.