By Vince Gasparini | October 23, 2023
Updated Oct. 25
Students attending the vigil for Israel.
Photo Credit: Vince Gasparini / the ASP
Students from different organizations at the University at Albany have voiced support for both Israel and Palestine in recent weeks since a surprise offensive on Israel by terrorist group Hamas on Oct. 7.
Both Jewish and Muslim groups gathered in separate events to honor the lives taken by the attack and throughout the conflict.
Jewish organizations from around campus organized a vigil in front of the Campus Center on Oct. 11 to honor the lives lost during the attack. UAlbany Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi (SAEPi), and Shabbos House were present at the event. Attendees sang religious songs and prayed in support of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) throughout the event.
Officers from the University Police Department (UPD) were present throughout the night.
“I’m here to support my brothers and sisters in Israel right now,” UAlbany sophomore and AEPi brother Ari Klein said. “I know a lot of people affected by [the attack].”
Shabbos House Rabbi Mendel Rubin spoke on the effects of the attack on the Jewish community at UAlbany during the vigil. “They say six degrees of separation, but a lot of the people here have maybe one or two degrees of separation. There’s a lot of interconnectedness and it hits home very hard.”
UAlbany’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) organized an event on Oct. 12 to stand in solidarity with Palestinians. Members of UAlbany’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) were also present at the event.
Attendees of the event, which also took place in front of the Campus Center, called out Israel for its history of attacks against Palestine, and also called out UAlbany for not also mourning innocent Palestinian lives that have been lost, along with the lives of people in other countries who have died due to terrorist attacks.
Students gather on the podium in solidarity with Palestine.
Photo Credit: Vince Gasparini / the ASP
“Some voices and some people, Palestinian people, to be specific, feel invisible as their death was not mourned,” MSA president Mohamed Mustafa said, speaking on a statement put out by Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Christakis on Oct. 11. In the statement, which was sent to students via email, Christakis stated that UAlbany was “shocked this weekend [Oct. 7] by the violent and gruesome attacks in Israel and the brutal fighting that continues in its aftermath.”
“It’s very disheartening to see because they bleed the same blood as those innocent Israeli lives,” Mustafa continued. “My question to the school is: Why now? After all of these years of staying silent on various issues… Morocco, Libya, and now even this week Afghanistan, but they chose this opportunity to speak alongside other colleges in the area.”
MSA also held a bake sale before the rally as a fundraiser in support of Palestinian relief.
While UAlbany offers study abroad programs in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, no UAlbany students are currently enrolled in either program. Renée DeCelle, Director of Education Abroad at UAlbany, spoke on how students who are curious in studying abroad in Israel should approach the situation.
“It’s impossible for anyone to predict how long the current conflict will last and how it could affect future semesters,” DeCelle said. “So for now, we plan to encourage students to make back-up plans such as postponing to Fall 2024 or after and/or switching to a program in a different destination.”
Professor Bryan Early, Associate Dean for Research and Vice Chair of Political Science at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, spoke on the conflict, saying “I hope that the UAlbany community can identify ways of helping Israelis and Palestinians adversely affected by the conflict and engage in constructive dialogues about how to establish a just, stable peace after the conflict ends.”