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USC Jewish community honors Samantha Josephson with traditional Shabbat candles

McKenzi Norris lights a Shabbat candle in honor of Samantha Josephson, whom police say was murdered last week after getting in a car she thought was her Uber.
McKenzi Norris lights a Shabbat candle in honor of Samantha Josephson, whom police say was murdered last week after getting in a car she thought was her Uber.

The Jewish community at the University of South Carolina honored one of their slain classmates with a traditional Shabbat candle ceremony Friday night.

Roughly 30 people attended the event, which was held to honor Samantha Josephson, whom police believe was murdered after getting in a car she mistakenly thought was her Uber.

Chabad at USC and Rabbi Sruly Epstein led the group of roughly 30 people in a traditional dinner, symbolic giving of money to charity and a reading of Psalm 23.

“It’s particularly appropriate to honor her because the candle has always symbolized the soul,” Epstein said.

“Tonight our candles will burn with an added significance, with an added brightness to drive away some of that darkness that took Sami away,” Epstien said during the ceremony.

Though other USC students held candlelit vigils for Josephson, Shabbat is not a vigil. Members of the Jewish faith light Shabbat candles every Friday night to honor the sabbath (in Judaism that’s Saturday, not Sunday). When a person of the Jewish faith dies, it is common to dedicate a Shabbat ceremony to them and to do good deeds in their names.

Regan Butler, a USC student and member of Chabad, said she dedicated her Torah readings to Josephson this week.

“Once a Jewish person dies, they can no longer do a mitzvah — which is like a good deed — so they rely on other people to do mitzvahs to elevate the soul,” Butler said.

Josephson attended several of the Shabbat ceremonies and several of the larger events such as Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) while at USC, said Butler, who was also in Alpha Gamma Delta sorority with Josephson.

As with many religious, Judaism has multiple different sects, but Friday’s ceremony was similar to a Christian nondenominational mass: everyone was welcome.

“A Jew is a Jew,” Epstein said. “It’s all labels.”

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