Israeli prof among Virginia Tech victims

BEN HARRIS, JTA

NEW YORK (JTA) — Among the 32 fatalities in the massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute was Liviu Librescu, a Romanian-born Holocaust survivor and professor in the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department.

Librescu, 76, who made aliyah to Israel in 1978, was killed on Yom Hashoah, the international day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust. Librescu came to Virginia on sabbatical in 1986 and decided to make it his home, according to news reports.

Librescu is believed to have been killed at Norris Hall, which houses the engineering department, during the second of two shootings on April 16.

Asael Arad, an Israeli freshman at the Blacksburg campus, told JTA he had heard from Librescu’s wife that the professor died trying to block the gunman from entering the room where he was teaching.

Asael Arad, an Israeli freshman at the Blacksburg campus, told JTA he had heard from Librescu’s wife that the professor died trying to block the gunman from entering the room where he was teaching.

“He blocked the door with his body so the killer wouldn’t be able to get into the class, ” Arad said. “He got shot through the door. “

A source at the Israeli Embassy in Washington confirmed that Librescu, a noted research scientist, had been prevented from emigrating by Romania’s communist government. An appeal from Prime Minister Menachem Begin to Romania’s president paved the way for Librescu and his wife, Marlena, to move to Israel.

Monday’s massacre, the largest in American history on a college campus, occurred at a school with a small Jewish student population: 1,400 in a total of 29,000, according to Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

As of Tuesday morning, the only report of Jewish students among the dead or wounded was one who broke his ankle leaping to safety through a second-floor window. He is in the hospital.

Sue Kurtz, the Hillel director on campus, held a meeting with Jewish students Monday night and was planning a second meeting Tuesday. Kurtz was scheduled to deliver a reading at a university-wide convocation Tuesday afternoon.

“The only possible response to a horror of this scale, ” Hillel President Wayne Firestone said, “is to remember the victims of this tragedy with love, to use their lives as an example for our own, and to continue to pursue a better world in their memory. “

Sign up for Your Morning Light