SEATTLE - Students and staff on the University of Washington are mourning the loss of a former PhD student after he was killed by Hamas militants at his home in Israel.
"It’s deeply troubling, it hits home and it’s very raw," said Rabbi Mendel Weingarten, Director for Jewish Life at Chabad at University of Washington.
Within an hour of being on campus in 2017, Weingarten says Hayim Katsman was one of the first to greet him.
"For all practical purposes, he was the one to welcome us to campus," Weingarten recalled.
Weingarten says Oct. 10 will mark the anniversary of their friendship.
"He was always very warm welcoming and to the point, he would always check in see how we were doing, always with a smile," said Weingarten.
He also came to their first menorah lighting on campus.
"I know that he was very proud to be Jewish. That’s pretty much what we shared in common," said Weingarten. "His grandfather was a rabbi and he’d joke about that."
Katsman received his PhD from the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies in 2021. During his time at UW, leaders say he dedicated his studies to understanding the interrelations of religion and politics in Israel and Palestine.
"He was definitely deeply involved in what was happening in Israel," said Weingarten.
Mendel says he’s been serving the students for over the last six years, and while there has been conflict in Israel for decades, he says the past three days has been far beyond anything seen before.
"Never before have I had to hug a student who couldn’t control their tears," said Weingarten.
"A lot of close friends who are over there right now don’t know what they are going to do," said UW junior Aiden Dvierin.
Dvierin came to seek guidance from Rabbi Mendel following the attacks.
"It’s really hard to hear as a UW student," said Dvierin. "For me, I was disappointed at the lack of haste from the University to put out any form of statement."
"The call of the hour is to put our emotions aside and be there for the students and to not only help them grieve, but also grow in our Jewish pride," said Weingarten, "because we feel and what we’ve been telling students all day, is that if we are shy and we are going to hide are Jewishness because of this, we are going to give Hamas an extra win."
Rabbi Mendel says Hayim Katsman was very passionate about his studies and about Israel. He says the 32-year-old was honest and took part in programs that were meaningful to him.