Students Gather to Share Hopes for Peace at Dinner Hosted by LISA

LISA hosted a dinner for peace in collaboration with Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies, Global Studies and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

The Loyola-Israel Student Alliance hosted a Dinner for Peace at 7 p.m. Nov. 13 in collaboration with Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies, Global Studies and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures in the Damen Student Center. 

The event was free and open to all students and aimed to offer students an opportunity to come together and share collective hopes for peace, according to the poster.

Those directly involved in the planning of the event included several of LISA’s board members and Patti Ray, who was Loyola’s founding Hillel Director in 1987 and now serves as the Hebrew Program Mentor. 

Ray’s students wanted to begin a multi-faith organization which highlighted Israel’s cultural, technological and ecological initiatives, she wrote in an email to The Phoenix. She wrote LISA isn’t a political organization but a cultural and ethnic student organization. 

The organization doesn’t normally host their events in collaboration with other groups on campus, but her students wanted to do something with faculty members who are affected by the latest war, according to Ray.

Israel declared war on Hamas following an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israeli towns outside the Gaza strip, according to the Associated Press

Since the declaration of war, there has been an increase in military action from both sides within the Gaza strip, according to AP. The Israeli military offensive has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians since the declaration of war, two thirds of them women and children, AP reported. At least 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly from the initial strike.

Jaime Neuman, a second-year LISA board member, read a poem to those in attendance at the dinner and said she helped to set up for the event beforehand. 

Neuman said she recognizes both the Palestinian and Israeli students on campus are finding difficulties in the world right now. 

“I think we are both struggling,” Neuman said. “I recognize the struggle of them, I hope they recognize the struggle of us. I mean, Islamophobia and antisemitism is skyrocketing. No form of hate is okay.”

Neuman said one of her goals for the dinner was to make sure students of all faiths felt welcome and understood they all should have the same goal. 

“Peace is the rule,” Neumann said. “The killings, the death — it needs to stop, and peace is the number one goal.”

At each of the table’s place settings, the board members of LISA provided peace prayer cards, which included prayers for students and staff of Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Bahá’í and Christian faiths, along with a card including websites that promote peace in various situations. 

Theology professor William French, religious studies professor and director of the global and international studies program Dr. Tracy Pintchman and French language professor Dr. David Posner were all invited to speak at the event.

Avi Karandjeff, who graduated from Loyola in 2022, has remained involved in LISA as a member of the board and said she serves as the organization’s alumni associate.

Karandjeff said she hoped students would leave the event knowing they have a community supporting them through these difficult times and they are never alone. 

“This conflict is above sides, and I feel like to say there are such strict sides is treating this like a chess game,” Karandjeff said. “At the end of the day, nobody is winning. Everybody is losing. There’s people that are hurting on both sides.”

Karandjeff said she wants her fellow Loyola students, staff and alumni to understand the most important thing in this time is to stick together.

“There’s a lot of pain on both sides,” Karandjeff said. “I hope that people can realize we’re not so different, and I feel like the emotions and intensity behind this conflict really has driven people apart, and that’s not what we need right now.”

Natalie Shkolnik, a member of the LISA board, gave the opening remarks for the evening and read the lyrics of the prayer song “Sim Shalom” in both English and Hebrew. Shalom is the Hebrew word for “peace,” according to the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries website

Second-year Lauren Viteri and fourth-year Pranshu Punjani presented the peace prayers “On Our Way to Peace” and a poem written by St. Oscar Romero, respectively. 

French took to the podium next for a brief speech on various promoters of peace from history, including Gandhi and Buddha. 

“Too many have died already,” French said. “As we grieve for the horror inflicted on Israel Oct. 7, must we not similarly grieve for the heavy toll, a much greater toll, in the loss of life for the non-Hamas Palestinian community?”

Kelsey Lewis, a fourth-year, followed this speech by reading “Source of Peace,” after which third-year Natalie Ramirez read “Prayer for Peacemakers.”

Pintchman spoke to the attendees next, emphasizing the importance of keeping an open mind in the face of conflicts such as these.

“In some ways tonight there are no words to talk about what is currently taking place in Israel and Palestine,” Pintchman said. “There have, of course, been many words that have been uttered in all kinds of contexts, and many opinions.”

“There are multiple temptations to give into despair, to apathy, to withdraw into ourselves and just stare into our phones, or to give into even worse things like hatred, which so many people seem to be doing,” Posner said.

Ramirez, the treasurer of LISA who isn’t of Jewish faith, said she first joined the organization as a way to learn about cultures other than her own. 

“I started to notice that a lot of Jewish students were being attacked because of their Jewishness and nothing else,” Ramirez said. “I saw it as unfair, and then I got more involved.”

Ramirez said she wanted students to walk away from the dinner with a new sense of hope, along with a new understanding of what it means to fully understand the conflict and everything that comes along with it. 

Maddie Kassa, a second-year, said she had never attended a LISA event before but wanted to come to the dinner because she appreciated the organization advertised it as a chance to share hopes for peace.

“We are all people,” Kassa said. “We all deserve peace, we all deserve love, no matter what your ethnicity is or what you practice.”

Neuman and Karandjeff provided closing remarks of the dinner with a reading of the prayer “I Dream of a Jerusalem of Peace.” 

“I dream of a city of light, where ancient fear and hatred is transformed into love,” Karandjeff read. “I dream of a holy city for all humanity, where the temples of all faiths are rebuilt in the name of the one God of many names. I dream of a Jerusalem of heart, of freedom, of spirit. I dream of a Jerusalem of peace.” 

This story was updated Nov. 21. Featured image by Lilli Malone / The Phoenix

Lilli Malone

Lilli Malone