'For Every Action, There Is A Reaction.' Researcher Joyce Fienberg Remembered At CMU Vigil

Oct 29, 2018

Hundreds of people gathered Monday night at Carnegie Mellon University to honor those killed in Saturday’s attack on Tree of Life synagogue.

CMU president Farnam Jahanian told the crowd that the communities of CMU and Pittsburgh were both united in heartbreak.

“I want to take a moment to address our Jewish students, colleagues and neighbors,” he said. “We love you, we support you, we surround you and we protect you.”

When the auditorium in the University Center reached capacity, security officers started to turn people away. Many waited outside the closed doors anyway. CMU officials say they organized the vigil to reaffirm the school’s values of compassion, inclusion and respect, and to mourn 75-year-old Joyce Fienberg.

A University of Pittsburgh research specialist for 25 years, Fienberg was married to the late Stephen Fienberg, who taught at CMU for many years. CMU interim provost Laurie Weingart said it was "heartbreaking" to lose such a "generous and thoughtful human being."

“But we know for every action there is a reaction,” she said. “We will remember Joyce and all of the victims, and dedicate ourselves to replicating the warmth that they brought to this world.”

Rabbi Jamie Gibson, the senior rabbi at Temple Sinai, said there are a lot of reasons to be afraid and that fear can be paralyzing.

“And the only thing that will help us move forward is to remember that ... the most important thing, is lo l’fached c’lal -- do not give in to the fear," he said. "Do not be afraid. Move forward, arm in arm."

“It’s up to us to make a better world.”

Speakers urged people to seek out others, to talk about how they’re feeling. Many added that the grieving and healing process will take time.

Toward the end of the vigil, the whole room stood to say the kaddish, a Jewish prayer for the dead. Rabbi Gibson said while the prayer is said by mourners, it doesn’t mention death at all.

“[T]he funny thing is the kaddish contains not a word about death, only faith,” he said.

Gibson said the hope expressed by the kaddish is that the memories and legacies of the dead will continue on in the living.  

The bodies of Saturday’s 11 shooting victims were released to their families on Monday. The accused, Robert Bowers, was arraigned in federal court Monday. He faces dozens of charges in both federal and state court, including criminal homicide, aggravated assault, and fatally obstructing religious practices, a federal hate crime.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania are scheduled to appear in Pittsburgh Tuesday, the same day as the first of the victims' funerals.