Campus gathering reflects on Mumbai tragedy

Religious leaders and students urged the Brandeis University community to cultivate a culture of good deeds and kindness in response to the horrific terror attacks that took place in Mumbai on Thanksgiving eve.

Jews, Muslims and Christians, Americans and Indians spoke passionately at the Dec. 3 gathering, sponsored by the university’s Interfaith Chaplaincy on the plaza in front of Goldfarb Library, of their conviction that this was the most effective answer to the culture of death and darkness.

“We will fight against those terrorists with fundamentalism and extremism,” declared Rabbi Peretz Chein, the spiritual leader of the Chabad House in Waltham that serves Brandeis. The Chabad House in Mumbai was hard-hit by the terrorists, who killed numerous Americans and Israelis there, including the Mumbai Chabad rabbi and his wife.

“I urge everyone here to become a fundamentalist of goodness and an extremist of kindness,” Chein urged a crowd of students, faculty and staff. “I ask everyone here to do an extreme act of kindness, of goodness, something you never expected to do, in memory of those who can never do an act of goodness again.

“We will overcome  the darkness, we will overcome the hate, because light and love are all-powerful,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

Naman Pugalia ’09, a resident of the area of Mumbai struck by the terrorists, said he lost a mentor, three family friends and four personal friends in the attack. “It has been a week,” he said, “and I am still bleeding.”

“This is a time to look forward,” he said. “If I can look forward, we all can look forward.”

Pugalia said that when he goes home for the upcoming school break, he would work on the physical reconstruction of Chabad House in Mumbai, and he urged all members of the Brandeis community to join in a student-led initiative to create a scholarship dedicated to the memory of the slain Chabad rabbi.

The rabbi’s toddler, who escaped death, “looks to us for solidarity, looks to us for a better future,” Pugalia said.

Imam Talal Eid, Brandeis’ Muslim chaplain, said he was shocked and grieved for the loss of innocent life, especially knowing that those who committed this terrorist act called themselves Muslims. “I am deeply distressed to see my religion hijacked… and used by people who hate and kill,” he said.

He stressed that in the Koran, as in the Torah, God states that taking a single innocent life is equal to killing all of humanity. 

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