University of Houston students, staff honor victims of synagogue shooting

On Tuesday, staff and students at the University of Houston gathered in solidarity and song. They remembered the 11 victims who died at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The vigil happened as President Trump and the First Lady visited with the synagogue.

"It’s difficult to sit down with people or with students and to say, everything is going to be alright," said Rabbi Kenny Weiss, a professor at UH and the Executive Director of Houston Hillel, a Jewish campus ministry.

He says more students have turned to the organization and they’re having difficult conversations.

"I think that in our country today, nationalism and extremism has a louder voice than it has in the past. And it’s hard to say to people that can’t happen and it won’t happen because it has happened," he added.

Weiss says he’s telling students to be vigilant and speak out against hate.

Barrie Skalsky, a junior at UH and the student president of Houston Hillel, says these past couple of days have been painful.

"The part that really stuck with me was when the man shouted 'All Jews must die.' And that’s something that hits so close to home," Skalsky said.

However, she’s felt uplifted by her peers.

"One of my friends,who actually came here earlier, she sent me a text and she said, 'What happened was horrible and I’m thinking about you and I want to make sure that you’re okay,'" she recalled.

Patricia Martinez is not Jewish but she came out to show that hate must be fought together.

"It breaks my heart because there’s no reason that my friends should feel scared in America for being Jewish," Martinez said.

"The Jewish community is strong. We’ve been tested in the past. We’ve been pushed to the limits and here we are. We’re still here and we’re not going anywhere," concluded Skalsky.

Weiss and students refrained from commenting on the president's visit saying their focus in on unity rather than politics.