SGA holds vigil following Middle East attacks
On Oct. 12, the Student Government Association (SGA) held a vigil for the people of Israel. Led by first-year Annalee Messina, an Israeli-American, the community came together on Taylor Field, held candles, and listened to stories of those affected both in Israel and Palestine.
“I’m in a position where I have the opportunity to do something. Why wouldn’t I do it?” Messina said. Messina got the idea to hold a vigil after seeing one held at Harvard University. She initially pitched the idea to SGA President Arielle Hornbaker, and then pitched the idea to all of SGA who unanimously voted to hold a vigil.
Messina was adamant about holding the vigil as soon as possible while the Hamas attacks on Israel in early October were still fresh on people’s minds. Currently, Hamas and Israel are still at war and Israel has begun invading the Gaza Strip. According to Director of Student Activities and Orientation Thomas Morgan, there was only about two days in between the meeting when the event was pitched and the vigil itself. “At this point, the university hadn’t put out a statement yet. So, I was just kind of like as students, we need to…just show our support,” Messina said.
In addition to showing support for Israel and Palestine, Messina said it was also important for students to show their support for other students. “At Lasell, I think it just needed to be said that people who are struggling with this, like we’re here for you. We’re thinking about you. We’re thinking about your family,” Messina said.
Hornbaker said it was important to have an event that made a space for this community on campus and is available to offer any additional support to students. “The Student Government Association aims to improve the student experience and amplify student voices,” Hornbaker said. “SGA would be happy to provide additional support to those impacted by the ongoing violence in this conflict or from any other sources if other students seek this support.”
Messina said she bought 36 candles and did not expect many people to attend, however according to Morgan, around 80 people attended, including students, faculty, staff, and Lasell Villagers.
Messina said she hoped those that attended understand this incident is about more than just politics. “I really hope that people took away that saying ‘I stand with Israel’ doesn’t mean that you don’t stand for the innocent Palestinians being hurt because at the end of the day, like this war isn’t with Palestine. It’s with Hamas,” Messina said. “I just hope people realize it’s not about politics, it’s about the people.”
Morgan echoed Messina and said it is important to reflect. “It is important to hold space for students and communities who are grieving due to global tragedies. Events like this are not to take sides or make a political stance; rather, they are to recognize and mourn innocent lives lost. These tragedies have an impact on all of us, and it is important for us to recognize these and take the time and space to process and heal,” Morgan said.
Another event Messina has pitched to SGA is cardmaking that will allow students to make cards showing their support and well wishes to those that have been displaced. She is hoping the event can take place on Nov. 7, exactly one month after the initial attack. Hornbaker said SGA is working to understand the logistics on how to get the cards to Israel and Gaza.
Morgan and Hornbaker have also said the Donahue Institute for Equity & Social Justice and SGA will be collaborating for a week-long event starting Nov. 6 to educate the community on the war in the Middle East. Morgan said the tabling event will include three parts: the history of Palestine and Gaza, the current events on the attacks on Israel and Gaza, and resources for students to get involved.
If students are looking for other ways to get involved, Messina said there are local synagogues that are also holding vigils and other events to show support, or students can reach out to SGA.