Charlie Radin + Gershom Gorenberg => J Street

I read Gershom Gorenberg every day. Well, every day I check my RSS reader, and if Gershom has written something, then I make sure to take the time to read it.  (His blog is called South Jerusalem. It's on our blogroll, I think).



He's an interesting guy – an Orthodox Jew and member of the Israeli left, and a thoughtful and kind man. 

He's teaming up with J-Street (the American Jewish Pro-Israel Pro-Peace group) and giving a talk about his great new book, The Unmaking of Israel.

  • Where: 384 Harvard Street, in Brookline.
  • When: Tomorrow (Wednesday)
  • Time: 7:30pm

I like Charlie Radin. He works at the Office of Communications at Brandeis (I think he's in charge of Brandeis NOW) and was an award-winning foreign correspondent for the Boston Globe.

Charlie is moderating the event! Our Charlie! How cool is that?

Want to go?

Seriously. Want to take a bus with me or something? Let me know.


The Brandeis of Cairo

So Egypt. You gotta give this to them – they know how to pull off revolutions.

Egyptian students are demanding – and receiving – huge concessions from their administrations. Stuff that we wish we had here.

At this point, you might say “ok, but they’re, like, you know. Egpytian. Foreign. Far off. Different context. Their administrations are clearly corrupt and they are coming from a lower baseline.”

Well, let’s take a look at what’s really going on.

In Egypt there are a few different education-related revolts happening. First off, the teachers are united in demanding a sane education system. They’re dealing with 60+ student classrooms, meager pay, and “In many cases to make ends meet, teachers essentially force undereducated students to pay for private lessons to pass their grade, creating a shadow education system that places a financial burden on parents.”. About 70% of Egyptian teachers went on strike to demand a reform of the education system. Go teachers unions!

Next up, we have the case of most Egyptian Universities. The administrative bureaucracy, deans, Presidents, etc, were all appointed by the Mubarak government. Amazingly, Professors are the ones taking the lead and protesting to basically replace them with democratically-elected administration. Students are backing them. They have been partially successful so far. Imagine this – a University where the faculty (and students) get to pick the Administration that serves them best.

Those two cases, however, have no real analogue to here and now. We don’t have corrupt propagandistic heads of public universities (there will always be exceptions) and our primary education system is bad, but nowhere near as broken as Egypt’s.

I want to talk about the American University of Cairo.

Located on the western desert fringes of Cairo in a newly developed area called the Fifth Settlement, AUC’s gleaming, multimillion-dollar campus is a world away from its historical home in the heart of Tahrir Square, and it boasts a level of corporate sponsorship that would tickle the imagination of most neoliberal economists, complete with a Pepsi gate, CIB fountain, and Mobinil tower. AUC students pay $17,000 a year in tuition — more than eight times the annual income of the average Egyptian.

Their President, Lisa Anderson, is a former dean of faculty at Columbia University. She’s not some far-off foreigner with strange ways. She would fit right in at Brandeis. Hell, she’s the co-chair of Human Rights Watch/Middle East. They speak English at AUC. It really is an American-style University.

You know what they were demanding?

The students’ demands include the reversal of a 9 percent tuition hike, permanent student representation on the university’s budget committee, and transparency in school finances. But among their chief concerns was an end to what they viewed as the university’s exploitive practices regarding its workers, including security guards, janitors, and groundskeepers.

Less tuition. Representation on the budget committee. Better treatment of labor.

In my time at Brandeis we haven’t achieved any of these goals. Tuition rises a lockstep 1% above inflation every year. Our endowment stays shadowed in mystery. Aramark continues to run roughshod over workers.

Well, these students who are much like us faced their President who is much like every other American University President. And they demanded the sort of things we would like to see here. And they won.

the university administration announced it had reached a compromise on many of the protesters’ demands, including greater budget transparency, the creation of an ad hoc committee with student, alumni, and faculty representatives taking part in tuition and budget decisions, a guaranteed five-day work week for custodial and landscape staff, greater worker protections, and a review of employee salary levels. Anderson also stressed that no university employees would be punished for taking part in the strike.

Look, of course there are differences. Waltham is not Cairo. Fred Lawrence is by all accounts pretty great. Our tuition hikes aren’t as high (in percentage, but maybe not in absolute terms). Brandeis workers are unionized (thanks in part to amazing Brandeis Labor Coalition work in the early 2000’s).

Still. These kids are like us. Their problems are like our problems. They succeeded in pulling off a solution. Let’s cheer them on, and learn from them.

Hey guys I’m back! Right now I’m going to blog mostly at my new place ( but sometimes I’ll write here on Innermost Parts as well.

This post was originally written here:

Saved: The Rose?

Check your email:

Dear members of the Brandeis community,
I am very pleased to inform you that Brandeis and the four plaintiffs involved in the Rose Art Museum litigation have reached an agreement to settle the case. As a result, their claims have been dismissed. In addition, the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General has officially terminated its review of Brandeis.
The agreement emphasizes that the Rose is and will remain a university art museum open to the public and that Brandeis has no plan to sell artwork. This position reflects the Board of Trustees’ adoption of the two key recommendations of The Future of The Rose Committee Report in March, 2010.

More on Brandeis Now.

This obviously seems like good news. If I remember correctly, the Massachusetts Attorney General was of the opinion that Brandeis doesn’t have the legal authority to sell off Rose Artwork in the first place, and the decision still stands.

Ariel Wittenberg understands these issues the best – she’s one of (if not the) best reporter Brandeis has seen in years. I’ll do some more research and report back.

BREAKING: Wayne is Back

Wayne Marshall. The man is a legend.

Wayne Marshall

He taught at Brandeis for two years (2007-2008, 2008-2009), doing courses like “Digital Pop from Hip-Hop to Mashup,” “Reggae Representation, Race and Nation,” or “Global Hip-Hop.”

Then, with the hiring freeze, the University refused to rehire him. (He was on a 2-year contract) This was a big deal.

Several students and alumni instantly created the “Save Wayne Campaign,” led by Innermost Parts alum Nathan Robinson.

Take this look at what we were saying at the time:
On Innermost Parts:

So one of Brandeis’s coolest professors is about to become an early victim of the budget cuts.

I took a class with Professor Wayne Marshall last semester (Race, Representation, Reggae and Nation), and loved every minute of it. Professor Marshall is one of the absolute best instructors I’ve had, and it sadly looks like he’s going to get the axe.

What Alumni Said:

I know that if I were still a student at Brandeis and he were not to return simply because something had to be cut from the budget, I would be confused as to why I was still at the school.

Even Professors Chimed In:

Professor Marshall’s contributions to the music faculty are important, to the students and to the faculty. His critical analysis on such subjects as globalization, his probing in topics such as ‘world’ music, his savvy in the most cutting edge music technologies and conversations – are all much needed as we connect temporally, spatially, politically, socially, culturally, to all of contemporary life. As his colleague in the music dept., I can say he has opened up necessary paths to my own thinking, and demonstrates just how essential music is to society, for better or for worse! He is the kind of educator that brings Brandeis into the 21t century at a gallop.

Judith Eissenberg, Prof of the Practice, Music

But that’s not all.

In the Hoot:

Prof. Wayne Marshall (AAAS and MUS) is a man of seemingly infinite identities: blogger, DJ, rapper, professor, author, researcher, and musician. Every Monday night, you can catch him spinning tunes at the Enormous Room club in Central Square, and every Tuesday afternoon he’ll be teaching about Music and Globalization.

Marshall seems to be consistently defying the image of the professor as a fusty academic. He is as plugged-in to the digital culture as any web-savvy teen. On his blog, he often speaks in slang culled from the streets of Kingston or the latest hip-hop anthem, mixing scholarly discourse with samples and snippets from the cultures he studies.

No matter where Wayne Marshall teaches, his students can expect an unforgettable academic experience. A Marshall class may not be typical, but as his Brandeis students (myself included) can attest, it’s absolutely worth the time.

Wayne went on to get a prestigious fellowship at the MIT media lab. For two years we privately mocked the incompetence at Brandeis that let him slip away. (Sorry Jehuda, but it’s true!)

Now, two years later, I’m pleased to report that motherfucking wayne is coming back to motherfucking Brandeis. He’ll be teaching a course called “Reggae, Race and Nation” on Tuesday evenings. It’s up on the registrar’s site and everything.

Sign up! Sign up now!

Oh I am so excited.

New Head of LTS – Your Input Needed

Yo Brandeis Listen UP!

The committee to hire the new Head of LTS meets tomorrow. I am on that committee, as the undergraduate representative.

Question for you all:
“As a result of hiring the new head of LTS what will be the fundamental differences at Brandeis one year from now, three years from now, and five years from now?”

Extra bonus question:
“What parts of LTS need to be sustained? What parts need to become better or new things should be created?”

If I get enough answers I will present them to the committee so please spread widely.

Thank you.

This amazing thing I kinda forgot to tell you about

Based on an email I just wrote

So this is a bit embarrassing.

For the past several weeks, we in the Justice League been working really hard on a secret project. We were so excited and worked so hard to make it happen that we sorta forgot to unveil it. Whoops. Consider this a quick 5am belated special surprise announcement.

Announcing the first (annual?) Social Justice Alumni Kicking Ass Weekend Fest.
(This name is subject to change)

We’ve contacted five impressive awesome alumni – and flown then to campus this weekend to meet you! They will hold workshops, share skills, talk about careers in social justice, their experiences at Brandeis – all that and more.

The quick info:

Thursday, 7:30, Shapiro Dorm Lounge: Andrew Slack
Friday, 3:30, SCC 315: Aaron Voldman and Sam Vaghar
Saturday, 2:00, SCC 313: Joshua Kahn Russell and Jay Mandel

The why-you-should-care info:

Andrew Slack ’02 will talk about using the power of Harry Potter to fight evil in the real world. Seriously. He’s awesome. You’re awesome. You two should connect.
7:30 – 10pm in Shapiro Dorm Lounge

Aaron Voldman ’09 and Sam Veghar ’08 both founded successful national non-profits – while they were still undergrads! These guys are going places and they want to meet you.
3:00 – 6:00 pm, SCC 315

Joshua Kahn Russell ’06 and Jay Mandel ’80 are both way too accomplished for these few sentences to do them justice. Suffice to say that Josh was the alpha badass activist when he was at Brandeis, and he’s still being great in the “real world.” Jay has been actively involved as an alum – he’s been involved with the Peace Circle, Peace Room, endowed a scholarship, and many more behind-the-scenes great things. You can learn more about them on the facebook event.
2:00 – 4:30 pm SCC 313

Exciting, right?

Yeah so we are very proud of ourselves, and we want to make sure that everyone knows about this exciting opportunity. You should go to one of these workshops/hangouts. Heck, you should go to all three. You know, everything is better with friends; bring yours.

Oh also!

Special bonus event:
Friday at Noon. Super-special peace vigil at the peace circle outside Usdan. Jay Mandel ’80 (who will be speaking/workshopping on Saturday) actually funded the peace circle and there’s going to be a big presence there in his honor. I hear there’ll be some special surprise guests there as well.

So I’m pumped. This weekend is going to be great.

Hope this all makes sense.

P.S. Remember our food and freedom campaign? We’ve raised over 1000 ballots, and now we’re in talks with the Union and Adminstration to bring fair dining practices and student democracy to campus. Expect more info soon.

Hillel Board rejects JVP

Jewish Voice for Peace is a recognized, but not chartered group on campus. Last Monday they applied to formally join the umbrella of all Jewish groups on campus – Hillel. The Hillel student board, in consultation with the adults in charge, voted to reject them.

This is gaining some national press:
New Voices


Magnes Zionist blog

You can read their application and rejection letters here.

This might turn into a bigger story, it might not.

I gotta write an essay for class. More info soon? What is your take on the whole deal?

Dear Green Activists on Campus

You might want to apply to this good award:

12th Annual Brower Youth Awards
Overview & Eligibility

What: The Brower Youth Awards is an annual national award recognizing six young people for outstanding activism and achievements on a project or campaign with positive environmental and social impact. The Brower Youth Awards gives its recipients access to other resources and opportunities to further the recipients’ environmental leadership work including a cash prize and a trip to San Francisco.

Who: Young activist leaders ages 13 to 22 (as of July 1, 2011) living in North America.

When: Completed applications must be submitted online by May 16, 2011 9:00 p.m. Pacific time.

Good luck!

Why Those Who Care For Justice, Must Care About Unions

This is a guest post from Paul Adler. Paul graduated Brandeis in ’04 and is now a PhD student at Georgetown studying history. He’s a really smart and friendly guy.

First of all, thank you to Sahar for inviting me to comment here, a real honor.

The above is a photo from the March on Washington on August 28, 1963 – the event which brought us that great American oration, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” Images such as this have become iconic representations not only of the civil rights movement, but of the American story of progress. Yet, if you look carefully at the signs, you will notice a crucial aspect to this story that does not appear in popular remembrances. Notice how a number of them start with “UAW Says” or “IUE Says”? Those are union signs, held most likely by union members. It was organized labor that paid for many of the key logistics for that day, including the United Auto Workers’ donation of $19,000 for the sound system. The microphones that gave the world a dream, came union made.

Organized labor, even in the much weakened form it appears in today, is a vast institution with millions of members. Labor is a complex institution, one which must both represent its members and all the baggage they bring from living in a society plagued with inequities of all sorts, while also fighting to transform that world. Unions can be overly bureaucratic, unresponsive to their members, concerned with parochial deals for their members over the common good and many other institutional vices. Furthermore, labor has seen its fair share of corruption and unions have helped to continue racial and gender disparities.

Yet, for all its many faults, I am hard pressed to think of an institution that has done more to uplift more types of people in the U.S., both socially and economically, than unions. Labor has been a force seeking to remake American society by wiping out inequalities. Union struggles helped build support for so many of the social programs we take for granted, from unemployment insurance to Medicare. The battles waged by unions made jobs (such as working in a factory), which had previously been dangerous, underpaid, and lacking respect in society into the foundations of economically secure families and a society in which, at the height of union power, inequality began to shrink. To be less abstract, as the slogan goes, unions gave us the weekend.

The example of the March on Washington points to something else. Labor, at its best, has been a force for social good far beyond wages and benefits. On the more progressive and often radical end of labor, union members and leaders have seen their struggle as one for liberation from all manner of social injustices. Unions played a major role not just in the March in 1963, but throughout the civil rights struggle providing finance and bodies. This included work by black trade unionists, such as A. Philip Randolph, a great civil rights hero (the March on Washington was his idea), and also a giant among labor organizers. Labor provided an important home for women’s struggles by empowering female workers through strikes and other activities and by providing an institutional base for the feminist movement in the decades between the gaining of suffrage and the 1960s movement. Before the emergence of the environmental movement in the U.S. in the late 1960s, unions weighed in to help pass legislation such as the Clean Air Act. Union radicals, such as those in the IWW, have contributed vitally to political democracy as well. In fact, one of the most First Amendment cases in U.S. history, Whitney vs. California, concerned Anita Whitney, a member of the radical Industrial Workers of the World, who was arrested under a state law for making pro-labor speeches. While her conviction was upheld, Justice Louis Brandeis’ concurring opinion articulated a defense of free speech that has become a standard-bearer in these debates.

Today, organized labor is facing an existential threat in the U.S., as conservative move from chipping away at its power to attempting to eliminate unions entirely. I believe this is a fight that all those who care about justice must embrace. They may not be perfect, but without them, in so many ways, we will be a poorer society and nation.

Is BDS a defensible position?

There’s this guy on the Huffington Post, named Rabbi David Wolpe. He basically argued that there are two strains of thinking regarding Israel (among Jews) that are beyond the pale: Boycot/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) on Israel, and “throw the Arabs out of Israel”.

His argument leaves me really leery of the standard journalistic trope of false equivalency: One faction (let’s call them the Right) is proposing horrible idea X, and I can only point that out if I find another opposing faction (let’s call them the Left) proposing an equally horrible idea Y. If I can’t find such an opposing faction, I’ll just pretend that the Left’s ideas are just as horrible as idea X, for the sake of “balance”

The main thrust of his anti-BDS argument is this:

These same people who anathematize Israel do not march against China for its rape of Tibet, against North Korea for its threatened obliteration of the South, against the Arab nations that have barred other religions from practice and discriminated in vicious and consistent ways against women, homosexuals and dissidents. No, they reserve their protest for a thriving, imperfect democracy that has a parliament with Arabs as well as Jews, a justice system where the chief judge in the trial condemning a former President of Israel is an Arab Israeli, where a completely unfettered press criticizes the government with vigor. Disagreeing with Israel is a time-honored tradition. Seeking to boycott it is to function as an anti-Semite. Anti-Semitism is making human faults (real and imagined) the special preserve of the Jews.

Now, that’s just ridiculous, isn’t it? The organized Jewish establishment is obsessed with creating connections between young Jews and the country of Israel. One of the Jewish community’s self-defined biggest challenges has been to give young American Jews a feeling like they have a stake in Israel. Congrats – it’s working. And now that they have a sense of identity with this country, these young women and men feel a stake in making sure that they approve of what’s being done there.

So the “why not march against China” argument is bogus for two reasons.
1. We don’t feel as much of an emotional stake with the Chinese as with our own kin/co-religionists
2. American Jews qua American Jews have much more leverage over the government and society of Israel than they do over the society of, say, Darfur.

Anti-semitism argument is wrong on it’s face, too. He sounds like someone playing dictionary games to argue that affirmative action is racist.

I still believe in the sub-argument of the article: that BDS are not only counterproductive but morally wrong. Is anyone out there making an actual, well-reasoned argument for that position? Not this guy.

What do you think of the article?

Why do Unions matter?

I’ll be asking some distinguished members of the Brandeis community to weigh in on this. For now, please read this article. It’s a magnificent look at the past, present, and future of organized labor in America. The article is four pages long, written by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, and it’s a great primer on what’s been going on.

I can’t even excerpt it – read it now.
Continue reading “Why do Unions matter?”

Solidarity Pizza

Great story:

Solidarity, as Middle Eastern potentates are quickly discovering, is a powerful thing. And it can take some rather unusual forms.

One night last week, Ian’s Pizza in Madison, Wisconsin, received an order from some hungry protesters at the state capitol – where the Republican government is attempting to pass a bill that, among a range of harsh budget cuts, proposes to remove the collective bargaining rights of about 300,000 workers – asking if they had any leftovers. They did, and, even though it was 3.30am, obliged.

The next day they took a couple of calls from people who had heard about their gesture and wanted to order more pizzas for the protesters, who number in the tens of thousands, and have been demonstrating for nearly a week. A trickle, to coin a cliche, became a flood: by 5pm on Saturday, when they gave away 1,057 free slices at their restaurant and delivered more than 300 pizzas to the capitol, Ian’s had to suspend normal business.

On Sunday it all began again.Calls were coming in not just from the States (38 of the 50, at last count), but from all over the globe: Ian’s Facebook page (of course) carries a picture of the chalkboard on which they are keeping track – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Australia, Germany, China, the UK, the Netherlands, Korea, Turkey – and Egypt. Take on Mubarak and win, apparently, and you can take on the world.

Want to buy them a pizza yourself?
Instructions here or on their facebook page:

Oh hey! While I was typing this I got an email from the New York Working Families’ Party:

Dear Sahar,

“It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.”

That’s the quote of the week, courtesy of a Republican Congressman in Wisconsin, observing the protests in his state capital [1].

For the past week, tens of thousands of working people and students have taken days off to protest the new Wisconsin Tea Party governor’s vicious assault on public employees and their families.

The governor and his Right-Wing allies actually manufactured a budget crisis in order to advance their pro-corporate, anti-middle class agenda. He’s a “trickle-down” governor who pushed through irresponsible tax cuts that turned a budget surplus into a deficit. And now he wants working families to pay [2].

Thankfully, the workers and their allies have said enough is enough. Democratic legislators have fled the state in order to prevent the Republican legislature from pushing through Walker’s anti-worker proposals. And the protests have continued for seven days – dubbed by some as the “Week of Rage.” [3]

Will you join us in supporting these protesters with a $15 contribution? We’re in touch with the leaders of the Wisconsin protest, and we’ll send them a contribution or a care package to keep their efforts going – whatever they need. It takes a lot of food to keep 80,000 people on the ground.

Help us send some New York pastrami sandwiches with love to the Cheese State:

So if you want to send pastrami instead of Pizza here’s the way to do it:

Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin

So Wisconsin.

Can’t keep my mind off it. Can’t stop thinking about it. The story goes something like this: New Republican Governor in office calls a special session of the R-dominated legislature to pass huge tax cuts to corporations like Wal-Mart. Then he raises a scare about the lack of tax revenue in the state, so he decides to cut pay for state workers and outlaw their unions entirely. When the minority part in the legislature decides to flee the state in a filibuster-like move to deny him a quorum, he calls in the State Police to arrest them and force them to be physically present at the state capital.

Queue the massive protests. Now he’s threatening to call in the National Guard to clear out the protests.

It’s like we’re back in the 19th century. Plutocrat Governor wants to crush unions and benefit his fellow plutocrats. Threatens to use the military to sweep away the opposition.

Here’s a video I’ve been watching over and over again. Can’t stop crying.

Innermost Parts Alum Rivka Maizlish is on the scene: She’s pursuing a PhD in the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m going to try and get a hold of her and see what’s up.

Let’s show Fred Lawrence that students want change

Info from our latest campaign:

Here’s the situation: Fred Lawrence is new, and he’s going to make changes. The thing is, students don’t have much input on those changes. If he’s not going to ask for what we want, we’ll have to tell him. If enough of us unite behind a shared platform, he’s going to take notice.

The Plan: We get as much of the student community as we can in one room. Together, we create a list of action items we want Pres. Fred to take. Then, we talk to our friends and get tons of signatures to back these proposals.

What do you think of that?

Meeting. Castle Commons. Saturday. 4-6pm.!/event.php?eid=193847217310816&index=1

Can you be there? This meeting is for everyone who wants to make the plan happen. We need about 20 committed students to pull this off.

Fred Lawrence is a great guy who clearly cares about students. I’m excited because I know he’ll take us seriously and show us the same respect we show him.

We hope to see you there!

New Chief of Staff is a Brandeis Grad

I get email:

Dear members of the Brandeis community,

I am pleased to announce that David A. Bunis, ’83 will be joining the university on Feb. 1, 2011 as Chief of Staff. I first met David about 20 years ago when we worked together on the Civil Rights Committee of the Anti-Defamation League and I was impressed with his judgment, integrity and dedication. Since then, we have had occasion to work together on a number of projects and my esteem has grown.

A 1987 graduate of the Boston University School of Law, David has been a partner at Dwyer & Collora, LLP, in Boston for two decades, serving as counsel to a variety of clients including high tech companies, financial institutions and non-profits. In his law practice, David represented individuals and institutions in trials before state and federal courts, mediation and arbitration panels and government agencies.

For many years, he represented Tufts University and became intimately familiar with the myriad issues affecting colleges and universities. That experience, his time as a Brandeis undergraduate, and some of the decades-long relationships he has maintained with alumni, faculty and staff will serve him well as he immerses himself in the university.

During my discussions with David about returning to his alma mater to manage and coordinate the activities of my office, it was clear that the spirit of Brandeis inspired his professional life and work. In fact, his page on his law firm’s website contains a quote from an opinion Justice Brandeis wrote in 1927 advocating free speech and underscoring the importance of courage and leadership in a thriving democracy. In addition to his work for the ADL, where he served as chair of the Civil Rights Committee and a member of both the New England Regional Executive Board and as an ADL National Commissioner, David currently serves on a pro bono basis as a judge for administrative appeals for the Massachusetts Office of Minority and Women’s Business Affairs. David has also worked as an attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, New England’s largest legal services organization, where he represented low-income families facing eviction.

On a personal note, David is married to Jacqueline Hallo, ’82. The couple, who met when they were undergraduates, celebrated the bar and bat mitzvahs of their three children at Brandeis. The family lives in Newton, where David is vice president and a member of the board of directors of Temple Emanuel of Newton.

In an email after accepting the position, he wrote: “I am thrilled to be returning to Brandeis. Although years have passed and much has changed at Brandeis since my graduation, my pulse still quickens as I turn off South Street onto campus. The university has always been a very special place for me, and our large circle of friends is full of Brandeis alums. I am excited about working with trustees, faculty, students, alumni and staff who are the heart and soul of this great institution.”

I know you will join me in welcoming back to campus a life-long member of the Brandeis community and I know he will make a significant contribution in his new role at the university. His email address is

Fred Lawrence


An idea: We need a Groupon for volunteering

Check this out.

What if there were a Groupon for volunteering? Jim Gilliam, one of the most insightful and interesting people I’ve met in the progressive world, has this great idea.

As the organizer, you find a local charity and work with them to develop a “deal,” which is a project that could be completed in a weekend if they just had enough volunteers to help out. Like renovating a community center, or making a newly disabled person’s house handicap accessible. Be really creative, the more interesting and compelling the story and project, the better the “deal.”

An email goes out on Tuesday laying out the deal, and if enough people sign up, the project is on for Saturday (or Sunday). The email could include a link for folks to donate to cover food or other incidental costs associated with the event in case they can’t actually come themselves.

A second email goes out on Thursday with more specific details on logistics, tells everyone about all the people coming (we’re on!), and encourages more people to signup (don’t miss out!), tell their friends, and/or donate to defray expenses. You can even be a little fun with it and gently poke at people that helping someone else might be a great thing to do before they cash in their latest 50% off spa treatment deal from Groupon.

The project happens on Saturday. People are taking pictures, tweeting about it, meeting new people, having fun, and doing something awesome and amazing too. All the people seeing that activity will want to get in on the action next week. You send out an email on Monday with pictures and highlights from Saturday. Then when the next deal hits on Tuesday, people will be less afraid to go. So three emails a week. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday.

Once you get some traction, people will start bringing their ideas for deals directly to you. They wouldn’t even necessarily have to be based around local charities, it might end up just being a family who needs help.

Cool, right? Could something like this happen at Brandeis?

Maybe Waltham group could organize something like this. I know I would totally go to “GroupOn’d” events, but I’m too intimidated to join Waltham Group directly. Or maybe a more activist groups could work with nonprofits in Waltham.

The idea is there, the Brandeis community is so tightly-linked through facebook that implementation would be a snap. We just need someone to organize something like this. Any takers? (I could help you set this up, but I’m too busy (and too old) to do this myself)

A “Diplomatic Earthquake” is happening RIGHT NOW

Al-Jazeera has been leaked internal memos, meeting minutes, and other documents from negotiations between the PA and Israel over the last 10 years. The Guardian has also been given early access to the files.

Here are the links:

Now, I don’t trust Al-Jazeera’s analysis and biases to match my own. I do trust the Guardian to hold my values, more or less. They’re releasing the documents as a big data dump, though, so you can look through the primary documents and make your own conclusions.

People’s immediate takeaway is that these documents show a PLO that makes more and more concessions, and an Israel that never responds to these “generous” offers.

I don’t know if that’s true – I’m looking through the primary documents right now. Assuming that’s true, however, what does this mean for us? I bet the conventional wisdom is despair – “OMG the government won’t take any deal peace is dooomed!”.

I dunno, though. I actually feel like this is a positive thing. Turns out that the PA isn’t as stubborn at negotiation as might be expected, that they’re a responsible partner for peace. Maybe it’s because I just read an article called “Think Israel’s a lost cause? Ten reasons to think again”, but I could see this as a shock to the Israeli public causing them to put pressure on the gov’t to pursue a peace deal on the revealed terms.

I’m hopeful. Iran’s bomb was neutralized by Stuxnet. The Labor party can resume being a progressive party, and Tzipi Livni made a great impression on me when she came to Brandeis. Things could turn out ok.

What does it mean to be Brandeis University

This will be my last semester as an undergrad at Brandeis University.

This semester, I’m taking a course on Louis Brandeis with Professor Gaskins. (10-11am, MWTh. It’s not too late to sign up!). What a fitting way to go out with a bang.

We’re named after this amazing guy, Louis Dembitz Brandeis. We really don’t even know much about him.

Who was this man, Louis Brandeis? What did he stand for? How did he operate? What should a University named after this man look like?

As I take this course, I’ll try to write about things I learn that might serve as the beginnings of answers to these questions.

Here goes:

So Louis Brandeis was really fucking cool. He joined Harvard Law School at age 18, totally skipping an undergraduate education. He graduated a year early, such that the Harvard Board of Trustees had to vote to waive their law that you had to be at least 21 years old to graduate. He has the highest grades at the Harvard Law Review, ever.

Brandeis was no campus activist. He spent his time in school pursuing academic excellence, and his free time on tutoring others to pay his way through. If you want to model your time in school after Brandeis you’d have to skip college, but also you’d focus on grades on not pursue campus activism.

In a sense, Harvard is Brandeis University. He loved that place. He helped create the Law Review, the alumni association, and spent a ton of time and money building up the Law School. We have to grapple with that.

School in Brandeis’ experience also meant salons with professors, formal intellectual debates, and intense networking.

In a sense, Brandeis University reflects his ideals pretty well: we can agree that our greatest asset is our top-notch academics. The professors here are impressive, friendly, and helpful. At University, like we said, Brandeis focused and excelled at academics above all else.

One more thing: Brandeis “considered it immoral for lawyers to function as guys for hire, particularly, when their employers were corporations attempting to affect the political process.” That’s something for all of us, from students to Trustees, to remember.

I feel sick to my stomach

Read this. Hendrik Hertzberg has an article out about the reaction to the Gifford’s shooting which is elegant and composed and thoughtful. But look at this opening paragraph:

On October 5, 1995, as the Knesset was meeting to ratify the second Oslo agreement, thirty thousand Greater Israel zealots, Likud Party supporters, militant West Bank settlers, and right-wing nationalists rallied in Jerusalem’s Zion Square. For months, certain ultra-Orthodox rabbis and scholars had been suggesting that, because Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was willing to consider territorial concessions in negotiations with the Palestinians, it would be permissible, even obligatory, to kill him. In Zion Square, protesters carried pictures of Rabin, doctored to show him in Nazi uniform or with crosshairs over his face. The crowd chanted “Rabin boged!”—“Rabin is a traitor!”—and, again and again, “Death to Rabin!” From a balcony, prominent opposition politicians, including Benjamin Netanyahu, looked on benevolently and uttered no rebukes. A month later, at another, larger rally, this one for peace, Rabin was assassinated.

There are certain historical events that make me so freaking angry and upset every time someone mentions them. One is the murder of Fred Hampton. Another is this the murder of Yitzhak Rabin.

I hope you’re enjoying the first day of school, everyone.

Looking for a job in politics or organizing?

Let me know. I’ve got leads for you.
Just email me at sahar at innermostparts

Are you a non-senior that wants an amazing summer fellowship? Talk to me ASAP. Deadlines are coming soon for the sort of places that pay you to do awesome organizing, think-tanking, strategizing, etc.

Please pay attention to Tunisia

Read more here.

On December 17th, a 26 year-old unemployed university graduate named Mohamed Bouazizi drenched himself in petrol and set himself on fire in the central Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid in protest of economic conditions. Bouazizi, who succumbed to his injuries early this morning, had been the sole breadwinner for his family when his unlicensed produce stand was confiscated by local police.

The protests that have already claimed the lives of at least three are remarkable on several fronts: relatively unprecedented, they have drawn support from many sectors of society – trade unions, students, lawyers syndicates. They have gone largely unremarked-upon in the Western media. They have effectively and creatively relied on technology and new media to sustain and share their message, despite remarkable levels of censorship. They have been assisted by external online activists, notably the collective known as Anonymous. Allies of the regime have reportedly engaged equally enthusiastically, utilising phishing, censoring, and hacking against activists.


The Gabby Giffords Shooting and a Climbdown with Dignity

We grieve. Everyone. Thank god we still live in a country where there’s no argument over that.

This man is an american hero. I’m glad that American heroes are citizen-medics.

My thought is this:
As soon as we heard that Congresswoman Giffords was shot, many on the left immediately thought of right-wing violence. Memories of the attack on Tom Periello, the plane attack on the IRS, the Tiller murder, the attack on the holocaust museum lept straight to mind. Quickly, people swapped stories and pictures. Giffords’ Republican/Tea Party opponent shot AK-47’s with supporters to “remove Giffords from office”. There’s the now-infamous Sarah Palin target map.

People saw this coming. They remembered “don’t retreat, reload”. They remembered all that talk of 2nd amendment solutions. They remembered this.

This murder snapped people’s attention on a problem they’ve been worried about for years – rising rhetoric of violence and incitement to violence on the right. To quote Matthew Yglesias: “I think as of now we don’t know anything about the motives, if any, of the shooter but I hope people take something horrible like this as a reminder that we’ve seen a lot of overheated political rhetoric over the past couple of years.”

All that is lead-up to say this:

You gotta give people a way to climbdown with dignity. Yes, it’s frustrating that the media/the establishment is doing the false equivalence tango, pretending that “both sides” are to blame for an environment of calls to violence. You know that’s not true, I know that’s not true. But are you trying to be proven right, are you trying to score points against the right, or are you trying to get them to change their behavior? Basic human psychology shows us this: we need a collective agreement not to point fingers, so that the offenders don’t lash out and double down. It’s unsatisfying, but that’s how people work.

The wave of attention on Sarah Palin’s map causes her spokesman to stupidly double-down. Now she may be running on pure id, (and will never retreat, only reload, remember?) but that doesn’t mean that the basic human instinct to be defensive isn’t there in others. You make change by leaving people a dignified exit in the direction you want them to take. Otherwise they’ll just act cornered.

What we did last semester

So you may know that some of us, in addition to blogging on Innermost Parts, are also staff on the Justice League, which is a new online organizing group on campus. We just sent out an end-of-the-year email laying out all that we accomplished in fall 2010 to all our members. Here’s a slightly modified version of what we wrote:

Dear friends,

Happy New Year. Now that we’re in Winter Break – I hope you are enjoying it! – we’d like to thank you for working with us at the Justice League over the last semester. Thanks to you and hundreds of other Brandeis community members, we achieved a lot. Together, we:

  • Elected Adam Hughes Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees.
  • We rallied together to support Adam Hughes in his campaign, and he won. Adam is smart, humble, and he is a member of the activist community. During his two-year tenure, students will have a devoted and strategic advocate. This was big.

  • Trained 70 students to be leaders and community organizers.
  • At the tail end of September, we hosted a “Campus Camp Wellstone” with three trainers from Wellstone Action, a national center for training and leadership development. The hours of training covered topics like campaign planning, crafting a message, leadership development, how to work with the media, recruiting volunteers, and more.

  • Brought cage-free eggs to campus.
  • We partnered with the Real Food Challenge to turn out 877 people to vote on cage-free eggs at Brandeis. 877 voters is huge – more people voted in that poll than the vast majority of student union elections. The results were lopsidedly in our favor as well – 89.1% voted for cage-free eggs. This campaign gave us a great model for how we could work effectively with other groups in the future. The Real Food Challenge did a wonderful job taking the lead on this and we look forward to working with them again on future campaigns.

  • Hosted alumni to teach and inspire us
  • Corey Hope Leaffer, a strategist with SEIU Boston and all around rad individual, joined us to run a workshop on creating effective leadership and building strong organizations. Later, we brought Andrew Slack to a Hillel dinner of 400 people to talk about Brandeis, Social Justice, Harry Potter and changing the world. He spoke and then engaged with community members for over two hours; it was truly incredible. With your help, we will be able to replicate these awesome experiences and expand this promising program in the future.

  • Brought the progressive community on campus closer together.
  • We held 3 summits for the leaders of progressive clubs. Together, we discussed common problems, came up with collaborative solutions, shared best practices, and made connections. We also worked with our partners at to give progressive clubs access and a platform on the site. Now they can get their ideas heard by administration and faculty, reach out to potential members, and coordinate with other activists.

  • Invested in progressive groups on campus.
  • We value solidarity and we value the larger social justice movement. That’s why we gave over $500 out in grants to six progressive groups on campus. We helped fund STAND’s successful fundraising barbecue, Positive Foundation’s hunger banquet, SEA’s postcard campaign, the Labor Coalition’s meet the janitor lunch, the Dem’s Food Not Bombs speaker, and Real Food’s amazing end-of-year banquet and strategy meeting.

  • Influenced Peretz Apology.
  • This semester opened with a bang. Marty Peretz, a famous and powerful Brandeis Alum, sparked an uproar when he wrote inflammatory, hurtful and shocking things in The New Republic. Almost 500 of us immediately signed an open letter rebuking him – Brandeis was founded specifically to defend the marginalized or minority, after all. New Voices magazine wrote a feature about us, and we were covered in the Boston Globe, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, and other media. Two days after the launch of our campaign, Peretz backed down and apologized. Friends of Peretz told us that they had no doubt that he knew about us and that we had a large role in his decision to apologize.

  • Celebrated Brandeis.
  • The Westboro Baptist “Church” scheduled a demonstration attacking Brandeis. We united as a community to plan our response together. Our hastily-assembled group of volunteers raised $4301.72, gathered commitments of 1417 members of the Brandeis community to celebrate everything that Brandeis stands for, threw a festival on the great lawn, held events throughout the day, earned media attention, got the entire school on-board, and grew together as leaders and citizens. I am so proud to have been part of this with you all. In planning and executing all this, we showed that all Brandeis students are leaders and can be leaders – when a challenge came our way, students from all different parts of the community stepped up to take it on. Much of our work at Brandeis involves prodding this institution forward, pressuring those in power to live up to our values. I’m proud to have been able to work with you on something different – a cheery event that reminds everyone why Brandeis is worth it in the first place.

Wow. When the two of us began writing this letter, we did not fully realize how much we had accomplished in one short semester; but looking at this list – wow. We hope you’re impressed with yourself.

Brandeis was founded upon a revolutionary idea: that this University could also be part of a movement for justice. The Brandeis Justice League’s mission is to fight injustice, to right that which is wrong, and to make sure that vision comes to pass.

Over the last semester, we’ve worked with this goal in mind, focusing our efforts in two primary directions – boldly taking a stand for Brandeis values, and building the strength of progressives on campus. Morgan and I couldn’t have done a lot of this without your help and participation. Thank you. I hope you approve.

If you like what you see and want to join us as a team member, please let us know in the comments or via email. I hope you do.

It’s been our pleasure to report back to you. I hope you find joy in seeing how the campaigns you’ve worked on with us have ended successfully.

Please, let us know what you think of all this.

Enjoy the rest of the break.
-Sahar Massachi and Morgan Gross, Justice League

Think global, but also think local

Read this. “Why Class Matters in Campus Activism”:

But why are the U.K. crowds almost 500 times as robust as those in the U.S.? Why does the American movement to fight tuition hikes and funding cuts remain so anemic in comparison?

In no small part, it’s because privileged students at America’s colleges and universities generally don’t take the issue personally. Those who are politically active tend to set their sights on distant horizons — the poor in India, say, or the oppressed in Afghanistan. Without their privileged-kid allies, first-generation college students, immigrants, and students dependent on financial aid are going to have a hard time creating the kind of buzz that Britain has just produced.

Many of us from middle- and upper-income backgrounds have been socialized to believe that it is our duty to make a difference, but undertake such efforts abroad — where the “real” poor people are. We found nonprofits aimed at schooling children all over the globe while rarely acknowledging that our friend from the high school football team can’t afford the same kind of opportunities we can. Or we create Third World bicycle programs while ignoring that our lab partner has to travel two hours by bus, as he is unable to get a driver’s license as an undocumented immigrant. We were born lucky, so we head to the bars — oblivious to the rising tuition prices and crushing bureaucracy inside the financial aid office.

What do you think?

Brandeis Science Prof defends the Humanities with Epic Smackdown

I love Brandeis. Professor Gregory A. Petsko, who teaches Biochem in Rosenstiel, just wrote an epic smackdown on the president of SUNY Albany.

He put it up on a site for biologists to host their papers. You can read the whole thing here

Some choice quotes:
Continue reading “Brandeis Science Prof defends the Humanities with Epic Smackdown”

The Schedule for Tomorrow

Here’s the full schedule.

The outline for Friday looks like this:

Kickoff: Great Lawn at 8:30-9:30 AM
Featuring speakers, performances, and other programming by a wide range of campus leaders and groups. More activities will occur through out the day.

Brandeis Peace Vigil 12:10-12:40pm
Every Friday the interfaith chaplaincy comes together to host a weekly peace vigil at the Peace Circle, from 12:10-12:40pm. This Friday we are placing a special focus on confronting bigotry peacefully. We welcome everyone to come join us, regardless of your religious (or non-religious) background! We’ll start with a few minutes of reflective silence, then we’ll share our thoughts, and we’ll close with a song.

More events throughout the day in the SCC including:

Community Lunch 1:30pm:
This is Celebrate Brandeis day, so let’s talk about something worth celebrating – Brandeis and Social Justice. We’re trying to show that Brandeis is a community – so let’s build that community by having staff, faculty, and students mix in an informal setting.

Teach-In on Community Organizing and Leadership Development – 3pm
Corey Hope Leaffer is a kickass Brandeis alum. She’s agreed to lead a workshop teaching us about leadership development, how to build a strong organization, and teambuilding. One thing worth celebrating about Brandeis is our commitment to Justice. Corey’s going to teach us about how to actually make change we want to see in the world.

Ending: Shabbat Dinner (theme: Harry Potter)
Sherman Function Hall at 6:30 PM. Featuring a surprise special guest.

The full schedule can be found here
Continue reading “The Schedule for Tomorrow”

Daily Phelps-a-thon Update: We’ve gone Viral

A dispatch from Chaya Bender
Today alone we raised $1041.25 with 31 pledges…
That brings the grand total to $3167.94! Un-fricken-believable!
I am so very proud to be a Brandeisian.

While we are raising these large sums of money, let us not forget to meditate on exactly who we are helping. Take a minute of your time and sign Keshet’s Pledge to Save Lives:

Text: Continue reading “Daily Phelps-a-thon Update: We’ve gone Viral”

Dance Dance Revolution

Student revolts are sweeping the world. In response to gutting public funding for Universities in California, the UK, and Italy, students are on the move, trying new methods of activism, experimenting, learning, and growing. Exciting stuff. I’ve been tracking it on, and you really should check it out. It’s a blog written by the only professor of student movements in America.

So in the UK the government has proposed cutting funding for Universities by 80% and raising tuition by ~$20,000 per person.

The new face of student revolt? An occupation dance-off:

Phelps-a-Thon update – Tufts edition

another dispatch from Chaya Bender
First off, the numbers: so far we’ve raised $2077.75 with 76 pledges to support Keshet!

Brandeis University’s Phelps-a-thon is doing so well but we can always do better!
Keep up the amazing work! Send the link to everyone you know and to that person’s dog walker!

There will still be tabling at meals throughout the week, so come by and donate or just to shmooze. We will be dorm storming on Thursday night, so get ready to rock’n’roll.

In other news, check out the Phelps-a-thon facebook page from Tuft’s Queer Straight Alliance. From their facebook page:

“The anti-LGBT “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church, led by Rev. Fred Phelps, is coming to Massachusetts on December 3rd and 4th to protest at the Brandeis University Hillel and Framingham High School’s production of The Laramie Project. We are encouraging people to make a pledge online, any amount you chose, for every minute WBC pickets the school. In a twist of poetic justice, the longer the Phelps clan protests, the more money they will raise for LGBT equality and awareness. During the picket at Brandeis, the funds raised will benefit Keshet, a local LGBT Jewish group. While protesting at Framingham High School, the clan will be raising funds to benefit the school’s Gay Straight Alliance. Please pledge today and help spread the link far and wide. Thank you!”

Daily Phelps-a-thon Update

From Chaya Bender, co-facilitator of fundraising:
Daily Phelps-a-thon Update:
$1545.25 and 53 pledges!

We will be tabling all week for lunch and dinner in Usdan and Sherman. Please stop by and donate at that time!
You will also be able to sign Keshet’s Pledge to save lives and our very own Pledge to Celebrate Brandeis.

Keep up the good work, team!

Also: Meeting tonight 7pm Castle Commons. It’s the second community meeting for all of Brandeis to plan our response, events for the day, should we all wear the same colors on Friday, etc.

How you can get involved

Megan Straughan was sent this out as facebookmail for the “Celebrate Brandeis committee” event. Everyone should have a chance to read this and learn how to get involved.

Thanks to everyone for their participation so far and the hard work coming up! Now is the time for everyone to put themselves into event planning for the response to the WBC protest of the Brandeis Hillel and community!

Quick updates first:
This morning we met with several administrators, including Ed Callahan (Director of Public Safety) and Andrew Gully (Senior Vice President Communications and External Affairs). While they voiced concerns, they were overwhelmingly supportive of the cause and of students. We discussed the safety and security of all Brandeis community members and our goal of focusing on celebrating Brandeis and refusing to give in to what WBC wants.

The following plans for the day have been reached:
-8:30-9:30: Celebrate Brandeis festival (Great Lawn)

-9:30-4: Campus-organized events in the SCC

-Hillel’s Shabbat Dinner will be open to the campus

-Daniel will work with Public safety to send a message to the campus about security measures and protocols for the event.

And now it’s time for all of us to create the evens of the day! We ask that over the break all of you work in your breakout groups, go back to your clubs, and start collaborating with peers to create events for the festival and for the period between the festival and the Shabbat dinner. After the break we’ll have another campus-wide meeting to check in on plans and logistics.

We would love to see groups collaborating! E-mail Mark Hajjar ( with ideas, and we will help with logistics and resources such as room reservations.

The point-people for each breakout group (established in the first community-wide meeting) are listed below. We would love to see new people joining them! If you’d like to create a different breakout group, send an e-mail to, and I’ll send your info out to the group to get things started.

Thanks so much for your passion and commitment! Have a wonderful break!

Megan Straughan

Safety: Daniel Achempong (

Fundraising: Morgan Gross (
Chaya Ariel Bender (

Media: Rachel Goldfarb (

First Hour/Festival: Erica Shaps (

Day of Events: Mark Hajjar (
Matt Zunitch (
Hannah Pollack (

Picking up steam

In less than 12 hours, we have 168 signatures saying:
“Yo, these WBC people are lame and mockable. So let’s respond to their hate with a celebration of how much we love each other / Brandeis. And also – Hillel, TRISK, everyone else attacked by these dudes – we got your back”

Or saying something like that.

Lots of people have been emailing and texting me asking how to get involved in party planning. Keep it up! More info on legit party planning to come out tonight, or tomorrow morning, pending a couple meetings.

I need someone reasonably computer-savvy for a special mission ASAP. Shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. Let me if you’re interested. If you don’t know how to contact me, let me know in the comments.

Student Union Senate endorsed the letter. That means we got Hillel, Student Union E-Board, and the Student Union Senate. Once we get Jehuda onboard, we can claim a monopoly and build hotels. 🙂

We’ve also hit the recommended list on Blue Mass Group.

Keep it up! This is happening!

Now – I’m going to spend the rest of today figuring out a structure for people to plan their parties and where to point people to when they ask how they can be involved.


In response to all this Fred Phelps business, people have been emailing me about their experiences with the WBC back in the day. I really liked this one:

You probably already know that the Phelpses try to provoke violent or otherwise illegal responses from counter protesters/citizens/whomever and then sue the communities or institutions that didn’t do a good enough job protecting them in exercising their First Amendment rights. In Lexington, the town manager’s office organized an official community counter protest (the parents and other concerned people linked hands, stood between the protesters and the school, and then turned their backs on them for the duration of the protest). They brought in volunteer outside experts to help organize and teach them how to do a peaceful counter-protest.

As the Lexington protest and counter-protest got underway, a couple of police officers who were patrolling the area met an older man who was walking towards the high school. They started to explain about the Phelpses and he interrupted: “I know. That’s where I’m going. I’m a Korean War vet. These people have disrespected my comrades at their funerals, and now they’re after my kids. I’ve had enough.” And he held up a big box of eggs he planned to throw. The officers explained the nonviolent plan and the reason for it. When they told him how many counter protesters there were, a big smile spread across his face, saluted them, and turned around.


Thought I’d share.

What a night

Exhausted update:

Thoughts about the meeting tonight

  • Meeting tonight was awesome. By one count, over 117 people came.
  • Things started slow and confusingly. When we broke out into breakout groups, people really got excited
  • We have coordinating committees for events, the keynote event, safety, “frontline” (at south street), media and publicity, fundraising, and possibly other stuff I can’t remember right now
  • I am so impressed by how people are taking ownership and stepping up to do things
  • Tonight we had an exercise in a grassrootsy meeting. It had downsides – it took time and effort and patience to brief everyone on what had gone on before the meeting tonight, and it was frustrating to try and set goals and so on with such a large group – but by the end it was definitely worth it. So many people were able to take their ideas and run with them.
  • Breakout groups were such a good idea that we should’ve gone into them much earlier.
  • We agreed that from now on large group meetings will have only 2 functions: check-ins from breakout groups/planning committees (they are the same thing) and votes. This will streamline things a lot I think

Report from tonight:

  • Victor Frenkel and I spent tonight working on this: I really hope you like it and sign it.
  • Corresponding facebook event:
  • 2 folks have signed up to document the process of this whole experiment in grassroots-driven community response. I’m fascinated to see the results. We’ve tentatively agreed to have some of their stuff show up on Innermost Parts. Yay!
  • I really hope you like the statement and sign it.

Last thoughts before I collapse:

  • I am excited for the new leadership that will be created/displayed throughout this whole deal.
  • I am excited for the bonds of trust that will be formed between people because of this
  • I am excited to take less and less of a role in this whole thing. I’m glad to set up a structure, framework, gather people in a room, etc. Now it’s time for new leadership to shine and me to catch up on my homework.
  • Maybe next time I’ll post a report that’s actually useful – what has been decided at the meeting, how you can get involved, what is being worked on, etc. Instead of my ramblings now. 🙂
  • Brandeis is a family and Brandeis is beautiful.


Tonight: Westboro Baptist PARTY PLANNING

So much has happened in the last 24 hours. I am running around talking to different staff and students. This is going to be great.

I don’t have time to report right now. Come to the meeting tonight and all of us will report on what is going on, and we can plan the community response together. Already 83 people are attending on facebook.

10pm. Castle Commons. Tonight.
Facebook Event link:

See you there?

Official Event info:

OK so the Westboro Baptist “Church” is coming to Brandeis.

It’s gonna be awesome. We have all sorts of ideas of how to respond. So let’s meet and plan it out!

Can we respond to their hate with acts of love for our fellow Brandeisians?
Can we respond with outrageous things?

When: 10pm Sunday.
Where: Castle Commons for now – but we might change the meeting place.

Be there.

Westboro Baptist PARTY UPDATE

So you may be aware that Innermost Parts is a project of a Brandeis club called The Justice League.
We’re thinking of holding a general meeting for all campus to plan our response. 10pm Sunday. Good idea? Would you go to that?

Here is every idea from the comments and facebook event so far:

Which ones do you like? What would you like to add?

– Buy a bus/carpool and follow them during the day
– Dance the Hora around for the entire visit
– Kissathon
– Party
– Fundraiser
– Sing songs of counterculture (RENT, internet is for porn, etc)
– Glitter
– Rickroll
– Don’t pay attention
– Free Kippas and Rainbow flags

Longer ideas:

  • Let’s make it really positive! Let’s make it about what a great place Brandeis is, and not about WBC at all! We should do charity donations and channuka songs, like people mentioned!
  • I think it is very important that we organize a response that celebrates Brandeis diversity and pluralism rather than attack the group itself
  • Let’s reclaim this campus as a home for the sexually liberated and put on a good show.
  • We should just make a big circle around them with our backs turned toward them. And fart a lot in their general direction
  • Use cardboard/other materials to build a genuine MEDIA CONTROLLING DEVICE on the Great Lawn. Make a lot of aerials and knobs and stuff. Then go at it, controlling the media through secret, clandestine connections.
  • I leave these tools at your disposal. While it may seem funny, in all seriousness I urge you: WHAT SETS THESE PEOPLE APART IS THEIR UTTER LACK OF SUBTLETY AND LACK OF CREATIVITY. This means whatever you do has to be subtle, creative, and, (the one attribute I suggest you mimic) ludicrous.
  • CRAZY-SIGNS: Everyone bring a picketing sign or a poster, but DO NOT COORDINATE what they will be, and then full-heartedly devote yourself to supporting the signs other people bring as well as your own, expounding their virtues to the utmost.
  • Cake Party: If you really want a party, get a lot of cake. Then everyone should eat cake, and only be allowed to say the word cake. This will be silly for three minutes, and funny after five, and eventually if you can be louder than them but only say the word cake then it will be epic.

Westboro Baptist PARTY! Brainstorming

Update: Brainstorming continued here:

This is going to be fun.

The Westboro Baptist “Church” is a bona fide hate group, according to the Anti Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. They’re also quite small – basically this guy Fred Phelps and his large extended family rove around the country throwing absurd protests that no one supports.

They’re coming to Brandeis on December 3.


“remind these Jews that they bear the curse of their forefather’s murder of Christ. Further these college students of doomed america live for the devil himself, spending their energies on drunkeness, lust, sloth and greed rather than serving the Lord Almighty.”

How are we going to respond?

I’m thinking, if these loonies are going to get me up at 8:45 in a morning for the inevitable counter-protest, it’s going to be for something that doesn’t just respond to them, but instead affirmatively builds something positive here. Something to make us feel more like a community.

It’s easy to make fun of these guys, but how can we take this and turn it into something positive?

I propose some sort of party.

I asked the reddit hivemind. Some answers have been:

  • Invite your local LGBT groups to have a KISSATHON for charity right next to them. Raise money for a good cause with some very pleasant in-your-face affection!
  • The biggest, most visible sign – I’d even say the only one – should just be a truthful explanation: WBC PROVOKES PEOPLE TO VIOLENCE, THEN SUES. IT’S ALL ABOUT MONEY.
    You can also stage a fundraiser:
    Don’t stage a circus. That’s what they want. It attracts people who might flip out and throw a punch, which is THEIR fundraising strategy.
  • Greet them with milk and cookies, and repeatedly tell them what you want for christmas

What do you think we should do?

I am willing to spend money on making this happen gloriously.
Facebook group here.