Steve Feldman clutched an Israeli and American flag as he watched members of Chabad at Temple University light three candles on a nine-foot-tall menorah in honor of the second night of Hanukkah.
Like the other attendees at Monday’s ceremony near the Bell Tower, Feldman wanted to honor Temple’s Jewish community. Unlike others, he wanted to make it clear that he felt the university’s response to Marc Lamont Hill’s comments “fell woefully short” of rightfully condemning the media studies and production professor.
“Not only was what he said anti-Jewish and anti-Israel, but I felt it was anti-American because he’s calling for violence,” said Feldman, a 1983 journalism alumnus and the executive director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Greater Philadelphia chapter. “He called for the destruction of Israel. … I felt the need to be here.”
The group of about 30 attendees included Provost JoAnne Epps and President Richard Englert, who addressed the crowd. Chabad at Temple University, an on-campus Jewish organization, annually lights the menorah at the Bell Tower, where it will remain through the end of the holiday on Sunday.
Jesse Laitman, the president of Chabad at Temple University, said the student organization would have held the event regardless of the controversy surrounding Hill’s remarks, but it’s a timely example of the strength of Temple’s Jewish community. He hopes other students support their Jewish peers.
“I hope he still is in this negative spotlight and that the consequences that he brought on himself stay,” he added.
Feldman called Englert’s university-wide statement about the situation “repugnant.” Englert condemned all discriminatory speech and said the university is “a place where divergent points of view will find a home,” in an email sent to the Temple community.
Englert was not able to comment on the controversy surrounding Hill at the event.
“We’re here for a celebration,” he told The Temple News. “And as the rabbi says, this is the triumph of lightness over darkness.”
He noted that this is the first Hanukkah since 11 people were killed and six were injured in a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27. Days after, a vigil was held at the Bell Tower to honor the victims of the tragedy, which was the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States.
No matter the situation, Laitman said Temple’s Jewish community is committed to unity.
“We’re not going to stand for anti-Semitism, we’re not going to stand for violence and we’re not going to stand for incendiary rhetoric,” Laitman said. “We are here, all together as one.”