Hundreds of American flags decorated the Spine on Wednesday as students participated in the 11th annual Mitzvah Marathon to commemorate the events of 9/11.
More than 80 volunteers from both the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Hillel at Binghamton worked to set up tables between the New University Union and Glenn G. Bartle Library, where students and faculty could come by to do a mitzvah, or a good deed, in remembrance of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
“The leader of Chabad, Rabbi Schneerson, always taught us to turn tears into action,” said Rabbi Levi Slonim, director of programming and development at Chabad. “Our way of responding to terror … is to add goodness into this world. So much darkness was brought into this world that day, and our lives have changed since twelve years ago. Our response is to make a difference.”
Students had opportunities throughout the day to make that difference including donating blood to the American Red Cross, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Salvation Army, donating food to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, reciting a prayer in honor of the victims and writing cards to soldiers in Afghanistan. Students could also pledge to do a good deed at a later time such as signing up to donate food, pledging to conserve energy or promising to call a friend or family member.
“This is really taking the next step,” said Tamar Gaffin-Cahn, major programming coordinator at Chabad and a senior majoring in international and social change. “This is us saying we’re not just going to remember but we’re going to help other people and make the world a better place.”
Slonim estimated that more than 1,000 students passed through the event on Wednesday, stopping on their way to and from classes to do something meaningful to remember the tragedy.
Members of the campus community were in attendance as well, including President Harvey Stenger and Dean of Students April Thompson.
“I remember all of us huddling around the television that day, knowing our world had changed — of course not quite yet knowing how — but everyone knew the world was not going to be the same,” Thompson said. “I think this is incredible. This really helps us do something and be empowered to do something. Thank you for putting ‘call a friend or family member,’ [as an option for a good deed] my mother really appreciated that!”
Volunteers erected a board in front of the pledge tables where students could pin pictures of the victims after pledging to do their good deed, as a way to make their actions more personal.
This year, the organizers wanted to make the event a little more real for those who were very young when the planes struck the Twin Towers twelve years ago.
“We wanted to make it more personal. A lot of the kids were in first grade when 9/11 happened,” Gaffin-Cahn said. “So we prepared a lot of information about the more recent tragedies, such as the Boston bombing and the Newtown shooting, and put together different ways to help out locally and around the world.”
Steven Shafran, a senior majoring in biology, said he believed the event was a great way to memorialize the day.
“People really want to do good deeds in their life and they’re too busy doing this or that,” Shafran said. “I think having something like this really inspires people to actually do, as opposed to just think about doing something.”