(May 24, 2019 / JNS) Rabbi Shlomo Silverman, director of the campus Chabad center at Carnegie Mellon University and vice chairman of the Council of Religious Advisors at Carnegie Mellon University, delivered the invocation at this year’s commencement ceremony on May 20 in front of a crowd of 10,000 people.
The rabbi noted the challenges that have faced the Pittsburgh community this year, when a gunman entered the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue during Shabbat-morning services on Oct. 27, 2018, and shot and killed 11 Jewish worshippers in the gravest act of anti-Semitic violence in America.
That incident was nearly replicated six months later to the day, when an armed 19-year-old went into Saturday-morning services at Chabad of Poway, Calif., killing one woman and injuring three others, including the synagogue’s founding leader, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein.
Silverman offered the graduates a message of resilience to take with them as they go forward.
“We live in a great time!” he first acknowledged. Then he went on to say, “although we must face difficult challenges, deep darkness and vast confusion in the world, we also have more opportunities than ever before to overcome our challenges, to dispel the darkness and bring greater understanding to mankind.
“Today, I’ll not focus on the challenges you have experienced in your personal journey at CMU or the horrific tragedy that we have all faced in Pittsburgh this year. I would like to focus on the strength of our CMU community that was brought out through the challenges. Let us focus on the kindness and support that has been shown.”
He told the audience to “remember how in times of crisis, we all came together. That’s community!”
“Through our life challenges, we can and will become stronger people, and will bring more light into this world … . We are strong when we stand united strong together for the good,” he said. “Don’t let it end here!”
“May the Almighty bless all of us that we may carry the strength of unity, of caring, of support for each other in the days and years to come,” he said, and followed by referencing a verse from Pirkei Avot, The Ethics of the Fathers.
Silverman ended the invocation with a moment of silence for prayer and reflection before the graduation ceremony began.