Virginia Tech: Senseless Tragedy and Selfless Herorism

The tragedy at Virginia Tech is almost beyond words. It shows the devastating consequences of complicated modern communication, ineffective gun control, and senseless violence.
My first thoughts were for Sue Kurtz, my Hillel colleague at Virginia Tech, and her family. Thankfully, they are safe--at least physically. I remember a conversation we had at a conference in November about how to bring Kosher food to their university located far from a Jewish community. Beyond her, my only connection to Virginia Tech is an alumna, Mara Seidel--a fellow Wilmingtonian and UMASS Hillel's JCSC Fellow.

Virginia Tech Hillel Director Sue Kurtz's speech at yesterday's Virginia Tech convocation.
Message from Hillel about Virginia Tech

Now, we are organizing a memorial vigil/service at Smith for this afternoon. For campuses around the country, it has brought disaster and crisis planning to its rightful place of attention (most campuses have been working on this because of an expected flu pandemic). At our Amherst staff meeting, we discussed how to balance the needs of Religious Advisors who only work at Amherst 1/3 time (and share the rest with Smith).

Below is the story of one courageous professor--survivor of the Holocaust and Soviet labor camp who lost his life after saving those of his students.
He demonstrates that the human capacity for evil (or sickness) allows for emergence of heroic acts of kindness. Let us follow Liviu Librescu's example and fill the world with acts of loving kindness.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the community of Virginia Tech (students, staff, faculty, parents, neighbors, alumnae, and more). May the memories of those whose lives were destroyed be for a blessing.

Rabbi Bruce

From the Times of London:
Liviu Librescu
One victim of the Virginia massacre left an incomparable legacy

The last person to see Professor Liviu Librescu alive appears to have been
Alec Calhoun, a student at Virginia Tech who turned as he prepared to leap
from a high classroom window to see the elderly academic holding shut the
classroom door. The student jumped, and lived. Minutes later, the professor
was shot dead.

There is no meaningful distinction between one relative's grief and
another's sorrow as the bereaved converge on Blacksburg from as near as
Roanoke and as far as India. But it is worth reflecting on the significance
of Professor Librescu's life of quiet heroism, which encompassed the
Holocaust, a career of internationally admired teaching and research, and a
final act of sacrifice that saved at least nine other lives.

The son of Romanian Jewish parents, he was sent to a Soviet labour camp as a
boy after his father was deported by the Nazis. He was repatriated to
communist Romania only to be forced out of academia there for his Israeli
sympathies. A personal intervention by Menachem Begin enabled him to
emigrate with his wife to Israel, from where he visited the US on a
sabbatical in 1986, and chose to stay. The appalling ironies of his murder
by a crazed student after a life of such fortitude and generosity will not
be lost on anyone who hears his story.

Yet neither should those who mourn him forget the role that America played
in his life. As for so many other survivors of the mid-20th century's
genocidal convulsions, the US was for this inspiring teacher both a beacon
of hope and a welcoming new home. Founded on the idea of liberty, it also
made, for him, a reality of that idea. Let those he saved now make the most
of it.

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