University of Wisconsin–Madison

Remarks at the Oct. 29 Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Vigil

Chancellor Blank addressed students and the UW community at a Oct. 29 vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. Her prepared remarks are below.

Thank you for being here.  It is important for our Badger community to come together in times of trial and crisis to support each other.

Saturday’s attack is, sadly, one of many in recent years that has targeted specific groups of Americans. It is particularly wrenching when such an attack targets a place of worship.  My sympathy and the sympathy of all of us are with the families and the community that suffered this attack.

Vile acts of anti-Semitism cannot be condemned strongly enough. It was an act of terrorism, as are previous attacks that targeted other groups.

The use of violence in the name of anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant and other ideologies are not just attacks against individuals.  They are also attacks on the ideals this country has fought to preserve for generations.

America has long been about an idea: A belief in democracy that says groups can come together in dialogue to work out their differences. A belief in an open society where all peoples have an opportunity to succeed.  A belief that America can be a better place tomorrow than it is today. We have not always lived up to those ideals, but that vision – that belief in a better America – is deeply important to this country.

Bigotry, hatred or violence against any of us, damages all of us. It sows fear and suspicion. We must stand up to that fear and say ‘no’, this is not what our country is about.

At UW-Madison, we are a place of education and learning…a place of creativity and innovation.  Education can only happen in an open and civil environment where everybody is welcome to talk, to debate, and to disagree. The violence that we saw in that Pittsburgh temple and that has been experienced by the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek and a technology firm in Middleton among so many other schools and workplaces, tear apart the community. We cannot give in to fear, because then we will lose what we most cherish about our places of worship, our schools, and indeed our entire country.

I am proud that our campus has a vibrant Jewish culture and community – more than 5,000 students—and we will do everything we can to support it. I particularly appreciate the leadership of Greg and Andrea Steinberger at Hillel.

May all of you find strength and comfort in our UW-Madison community. For our students, please remember that support is available to you through University Health Services and the Dean of Students Office; for staff, the Employee Assistance Office can help.  If you are feeling anxious or stressed by what has happened, do not hesitate to reach out.

Thank you for coming.  Thank you for caring and remember to care for each other in the days ahead.