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From President Ralph Kuncl: Connected in joy and tragedy

I write with tears in my eyes.

This weekend was a time of great joy for our community, as more than 1,400 graduates walked across the stage of the Greek Theatre in a milestone moment in their lives and the life of the University.  As we unite in times of celebration, we also necessarily come together in moments of tragedy.

On Saturday, a member of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, was gunned down in worship.  Less than 24 hours earlier she had joined us at the University of Redlands commencement ceremonies, where she had proudly watched a close friend’s daughter graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).

Ironically, my message at Friday’s CAS ceremony underlined our shared experiences, as well as the need to create a more compassionate world in which we can connect despite our differences.  I also acknowledged a graduating senior whose grandparents were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh a mere six months ago.

In those same remarks, “spark,” the power to ignite the ineffable in others, emerged as another theme.  That word illuminates Lori Gilbert-Kaye herself, who was known for acts of kindness that sparked deep appreciation in others.  That appreciation continues, as Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein gives her credit for saving him by putting herself in front of the gunman.  Acknowledging her generous nature, her friend Roneet Lev declares that, “Her death must bring goodness to the world.”

It is up to us to bring that goodness to pass.  We must strengthen our resolve to resist the rising tide of intolerance, hate, and anti-Semitism.  We must stand up against hate crimes and speak out against the hate speech that often precedes it.  We must courageously confront the senseless deaths in the epidemic of gun crimes in America, where even houses of worship consider their need for armed guards.

In coming together, people of conscience can begin to make a difference.  I, for one, am more than ready for something different.  Chaplain John Walsh invites members of the community to this afternoon’s Monday Prayers for Peace at 4 p.m. at the Labyrinth at Memorial Chapel.  A peace candle will be lit at 4:05 p.m.

As always, I encourage you to seek support if feelings become a burden that requires extra help.  Counselors can be reached 24/7 by calling 909-748-8960, or you may make an appointment at the Counseling Center on the Redlands campus by calling 909-748-8108; the Center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

On behalf of our community, to our student, to those injured, and to all of those affected by this heinous act of violence, I send our heartfelt condolences and reiterate our determination to bring goodness to the world.

In solidarity,

Ralph