Over 100 Georgetown students gathered in Red Square for a “healing and rededication ceremony” Tuesday evening in response to the theft of a menorah over the weekend.
The menorah was taken Saturday by at least two freshmen in what one of them called a “stupid prank” gone wrong. It was later recovered and returned to Red Square.
During the half hour ceremony of songs and speeches, community leaders vowed to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring.
Student leaders including Ben Bixby (SFS ’05), Jewish Student Association president, Henry Shea (COL ’07), Grand Knight of the Georgetown Knights of Columbus, Matt Singer (SFS ’07), GUSA’s deputy chief of staff and Saad Omar (COL ’07), vice president of the Muslim Students Association stood together and spoke individually before a newly lighted menorah during the rally.
Andrew Rivera (MSB ’05), president of the Black Student Alliance also attended but did not speak.
University administrators including Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, Jeanne Lord, associate dean of students, the Rev. Philip L. Boroughs S.J., vice president for mission and ministry and senior Jewish chaplain Harold White attended as well.
Shea told the crowd that the Knights stand “in full solidarity” with the JSA.
“Religious intolerance has no place on this campus,” he said. “This is not only an issue for the Jewish community.”
Omar also expressed his support for the campus’ Jewish community and said that respect was a key to preventing future problems.
“This is about the way we think. We can change nothing until we change the way we relate to one another and the way we respect each other,” he said. “We should finally give the minorities on campus the respect they deserve.”
A statement delivered by Bixby emphasized the importance of togetherness in fighting discrimination in the future.
“We’ve each attended too many rallies at Georgetown,” he said. “Too many rallies in response to too many instances of racism and religious disrespect.”
Pointing out that racially charged acts had occurred on other campuses around the country, Bixby urged the university community to “develop a curriculum and culture of tolerance, the likes of which have never been seen.”
In a final statement, Boroughs called Georgetown “a community of light.”
“I think our presence tonight, like the presence of the menorah, is a symbol of what we strive to be,” he said. “We want to stand together as a community of light to the world. All of us together have to make a commitment over and over to rededicate ourselves to the light.”
To end the evening, White led spectators as they linked hands and arms and sang a song of reconciliation.
In a brief interview following the ceremony, Olson said that the Georgetown administration was “taking this issue very seriously.”
“I’m saddened by what happened but encouraged by the way the community has come together tonight,” he said. “I’m confident this is a community with a desire to make a difference.”
Most students said that they enjoyed the ceremony and were upset that the menorah had been stolen.
“This was a good event and a good turnout although it’s bad that we had to have it in the first place,” Sarah Audelo (SFS ’06) said.