Jewish students at Michigan State University gathered together throughout the night of Monday, Feb. 13 to mourn those who were killed and to pray for the recovery of those wounded by a gunman who killed three students and critically wounded five others. In the shooting’s aftermath the next day, they were just beginning to process what happened at their school.

Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov, co-director with his wife, Simi, of the Chabad Student Center @ MSU in East Lansing, Mich., had just returned home from giving a class on campus when his phone started ringing nonstop. Some callers were asking for help, and others were sending support, as news of the shooting on campus spread far and wide. “I’ve never seen so many calls and messages,” he tells “Parents, students and so many alumni and parents of alumni have been reaching out.”

The campus went on lockdown as police combed the area for the gunman, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot. When the campus lockdown lifted, Shemtov, joined by Rabbi Yisrael Pinson, co-director of ChabaD of Greater Downtown Detroit, rushed over to Sparrow Hospital, which was receiving victims of the attack, both those wounded and those being treated for shock.


Both of the rabbis are chaplains, and they went to provide comfort and help to those gathered. “We went from family to family, just talking with them,” said Shemtov. Some families were receiving awful news about injuries, while others, including friends, were waiting to receive word. “There was an international student; his family was across the world, and we were there in their place.”

Shemtov and Pinson went on to Jewish fraternity AEPi, where fraternity members were gathered. At 2 a.m., they prayed together. Some students spoke about their experiences during the lockdown while they stayed in study halls and other areas awaiting news of the situation. The rabbis then went walking around campus to offer support to the broader campus community, still stunned from the evening’s events.

“The students in lockdown were just looking for someone to be there for them,” relates Shemtov. “They didn’t ask for anything. They just fell into us.”

Shemtov rushed to a local hospital as soon as the campus lockdown was lifted.
Shemtov rushed to a local hospital as soon as the campus lockdown was lifted.

Shemtov says that he wants students to know that Chabad is on the ground, ready to be a listening ear or to provide whatever else students might need. “We’re here with them,” he says.

Today, they are being joined by Rabbi Yarden Blumstein, Teen Coordinator at Friendship Circle and Director at UMatter, to offer students further support. The Chabad center also welcomed students from noon to 2 p.m. today for matzah-ball soup, snacks and drinks, as well as a chance to connect with them and with each other.

At 7 a.m., Shemtov was in the Meijer area supermarket to get vegetables for a 50-gallon pot of chicken soup, now bubbling on the stove. They gave him all the vegetables for free. As he prepares to connect with more individuals impacted by the events, he emphasizes the need for unity. “At this time, we’re all human, we’re all here for each other,” he says. “It’s most important to show up for each person.”