By Sacha Johnstone, a third Year Philosophy Student at the University of Birmingham.
On the morning of Tuesday the 18th of November, I was awoken by something which had shaken the entire Jewish people, not just my house in Selly Oak, Birmingham.
As I forced myself out of bed for my 10 a.m. lecture, I could make out the words ‘massacre’, ‘synagogue’ and ‘Jerusalem’ being yelled from the hallway outside of my bedroom.
It was only after I had checked my newsfeed, the standard first step in any student’s morning routine, that I realised the gravity of the situation, about which my housemates seemed so distraught.
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For the entirety of my two hour lecture, all I could think about was the four (now five) innocent victims of the massacre that had taken place in the Kehilat Yaakov Synagogue, in Har Nof, Jerusalem.
Upon arriving home from my lecture, I received a call from a friend, explaining that she had been inundated with messages and calls from other Jewish students in Birmingham, who felt that as a Birmingham Jewish student community, we had to do something to stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel, and to remember the victims of that mornings attack.
In the few hours that followed, I assisted Izzy Lenga (a second year Theology and Religion student at the University of Birmingham) and Carly Abrahams (a second year Psychology student at Birmingham City University) in organising and publicising an emergency vigil, to be held on campus.
With less than three hours’ notice, over 200 students gathered outside the University Of Birmingham Guild Of Students, to remember the four Rabbis who were brutally murdered whilst deep in prayer, as well as stand in solidarity with Jews in Israel and around the world, who constantly face threats of terror and violence, simply for being Jewish.
Izzy mentioned as she opened the proceedings, that ‘an attack on a Jewish place of worship is not simply an attack on the state of Israel, this is an attack on the Jewish people’.
During the vigil, Simon Goldich, the President of Birmingham Jewish Society addressed the crowd, explaining that as the Jewish student community of Birmingham, it is our duty to unite against such despicable acts of terror.
Throughout the rest of the vigil, representatives of Birmingham Jewish Society recited the memorial prayer and an excerpt from the book of psalms, before lighting candles in memory of the four Rabbis, as well as an additional candle for all the other innocent victims of terror throughout the world.
In light of the death of Israeli-Druze policeman, Zidan Saif who died the following day as a result of his heroic efforts to protect the worshipers of the Kehilat Yaakov Synagogue, a fifth candle may be posthumously dedicated to his memory.
As we stood there, in the dark of the night, singing ‘Acheinu’, ‘Oseh Shalom’ and finishing with ‘Ha Tikvah’, I had never been more proud to be a Jewish Student at the University of Birmingham.