Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
White nationalist Richard Spencer (C) and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Emancipation Park after the ‘Unite the Right’ rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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University of Florida Chabad to Counter Richard Spencer Speech with Day-Long Good Deeds Marathon

“We are responding to evil with hope, to darkness with light”

by
Liel Leibovitz
October 18, 2017
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
White nationalist Richard Spencer (C) and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Emancipation Park after the 'Unite the Right' rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

With white supremacist Richard Spencer slated to give a speech tomorrow at the University of Florida—home to the largest Jewish student body in the United States—the governor, Rick Scott, declared a state of emergency, and the police barricaded the path leading to the hall where the speech is slated to take place. With classes canceled and many on campus fearing a violent confrontation similar to the one that claimed the life of Heather Heyer earlier this year in Charlottesville, the university’s Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Student Center decided to respond with an unusual event—a daylong good deeds marathon.

“We are responding to evil with hope, to darkness with light,” said the center’s director, Rabbi Berl Goldman. “Our first responsibility is to help students navigate through this, and keep in mind that we’re dealing with all different types of reactions. Our second responsibility is to give students alternative options.”

To that end, the center has prepared a long list of random acts of kindness—from tutoring a child to donating blood—and will facilitate student efforts to respond to Spencer’s message of bigotry by doing good.

The mitzvah marathon will begin tonight at 11 p.m. with a falafel social, allowing students to begin congregating early and establish a sense of communion prior to tomorrow’s events, and will end on Friday night with Pink Shabbat, a dinner promoting breast cancer awareness. The Scroll will continue to bring updates from the campus as events unfold.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.

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