The Jewish community on Elon University’s campus is still healing from the events of last weekend, when a British citizen took four hostages at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. The man was in the synagogue for eleven hours before an FBI hostage rescue team entered the synagogue, killing the suspect.
Elon Chabad’s Rabbi Mendy Minkowitz said he did not see the news until Saturday night, but when he began to understand what was occurring, one of his first thoughts was “Are we doing this again?”
“It's sort of something that we have muscle memory for, you know, we have like a toolbox that we know to resort to when something like this happens,” Minkowitz said. “We have to band together, we have to dig deep to find more strength, to continue being proud Jews to not be silenced.”
Minkowitz has three children at home, one of which he said asked him about what was happening. Minkowitz said that was able to have that conversation with him through an empowering perspective.
“We actually posted to Facebook right away, how he and my younger daughter together put a coin in our charity box, because I encourage them, the children in particular, to realize that even though they're kids, and even though they're here in North Carolina, and not in Texas, they can help,” Minkowitz said.
Along with these conversations with his children, he has also been in contact with the Jewish community on campus. Minkowitz said that healing is a very individual process, but it can be achieved by the power of community.
He recalled an attack on a Chabad village in Israel in 1966 where five teenagers and the rabbi they were learning from were murdered by terrorists. He said that the leader of the Chabad movement, Rabbi Schneerson, spoke to the community following the attack. Minkowitz said he remembers those words Schneerson said when faced with his kind of tragedy, and has tried to since apply them to his own healing process.
“He told them, ‘you will be comforted, you will be consoled in continuing to expand your programs.’ In other words, rather than now, you know, take that and go into hiding, take that and build a new school in memory of those who were killed in that attack, and that is how you bring comfort to that community,” Minkowitz said. “We are comforted by building more, by expanding more and it doesn't only mean physical buildings, it means doing more Jewish activities, bringing forth more Jewish pride. And like I said earlier, teaching others about tolerating one another, and coming together.”
In the spirit of teaching others to tolerate each other, Minkowitz said that the Chabad center will be offering a new course called “outsmarting antisemitism” starting this spring. The course is not offered for credit through Elon but is open to all in an effort to stop acts of antisemitism before it occurs.