Brandeis is hurting

I’ve been hurt many times this year at Brandeis.

And I’ve thought by now, I’d be somewhat numb to all its happenings. Yet, everything I continue to come across shocks me, gives me another reason to feel no longer a part of a university I’ve come to see as a second home. And coming to this acknowledgement has hurt most of all.

If you don’t know me—or you’ve likely seen me around campus (one would say, I’m a little obvious here), during the past three years, I’ve worked on many projects with various student leaders and clubs, faculty, served on the student judiciary, performed many of my Spoken Word pieces at various coffeehouses and events, but most of all—I’ve formed beautiful and rare friendships that I will forever be in debt to Brandeis for. In this way, I will always know Brandeis, especially when we part ways this time next year.

I’ve been really strong, trying so very hard to stay strong, be a part of and have faith in the leadership this place has and truly needs. I’m unsure if what I see now has always been there, but either way, there was too much love around to let it affect my perception of Brandeis.

I’m disappointed, quite simply. I’ve seen more hate, more people trying to silence one another, more disrespect, more miscommunication, more polarizing decisions, this year than any other. To the point where I made the impulsive decision to study abroad next semester; the accumulation of Brandeis and student politics has suffocated me so much that I cannot feel anything but unhappiness here.

I am waiting, waiting to see Brandeis be the place I’ve always loved but lately the hate hurts, takes so much more as the days go by.

As a Muslim student at Brandeis, it isn’t easy, but it also isn’t much different from what I deal with outside of it. My personal, religious choices have been the only thing to give me a deep piece of mind during a disturbing, conflicting time in our world.

I come from a 12-year public school background, and I came to Brandeis anticipating an acceptance of alternative lifestyles and opinions because of its Jewish, secular status. Who would understand more about social and political underrepresentation than a strong minority group in America? I came here knowing my religious observance would be of no surprise because every Jewish sect is known and accommodated. At the same time, half of the student body is not Jewish, culturally or religiously—and they encompass different races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. This is reality; and the statistics shouldn’t be ignored.

I’ve heard more and more students and alumni express their anger about how Brandeis has been “un-Jewified.” These statements are hateful, they create second-class citizenship on our campus, and devalue the vast contributions non-Jewish students have done to improve Brandeis’ social life and class dynamics.

So, yes, this is a place for Jewish identity. But Brandeis represents more than that– it’s an institution originally created to give minority people a safe-haven, a shelter from outside hate, a time to solidify and progress through scholarship. Brandeis symbolizes endurance of difference and embraces strength through productive, respectful means.

I’m here. I’ve been here. But I didn’t feel this when the Muslims’ Student Association’s suite was vandalized and continue to not when I see all these Michael Oren Facebook groups, campus flyers, petitions, the Hoot and Justice articles, and Innermost Parts posts and comments.

If I am hurting, Brandeis is hurting; and I need, want so badly, for there to be more love than hate here. Remembering as the semester concludes, that with every difficult moment, there comes an easeful one to help heal it…


40 thoughts on “Brandeis is hurting”

  1. @ Alex N. Exactly! Thanks you

    @ J(ay), it’s distracting because it’s a hijacking an example I gave of the tenuous status of religion at Brandeis (which IS what Neda is talking about) and turning it into a conversation about what the Observant Jews should get and whether or not their needs are being met, which is such a common conversation at Brandeis that it makes many people of other faiths and non-believers uncomfortable and frustrated.

  2. Alex, what I have been discussing with Emma is compatible with your comments. I understand Neda’s post and the idea that those not in the “Jewish majority” can feel left out at times. Its a problem, and I agree that it should be brought to peoples attention.

    But in the case of the dining hall (I’m sorry if im stuck focusing on this one area of campus, but I think its very relevant to the general discussion), your only alternative to trying to include others is to go against the beliefs of those being accommodated for. I think you would agree that that option is unfeasible. Emma argues that her need for money is equally as important as someones personal beliefs. Fair point, except in the case where we are dealing with an area that is specifically catering to a certain group with certain beliefs. Its public in a sense that anyone can eat there; but I think its clear (maybe im naive) that kosher means that certain rules need to be adhered to (after all, why pay the extra 2-3 bucks if you dont know what kosher is?) To expect someone to adhere to those rules is imposing? This would be like sitting in the smoking section of a restaurant and complain to the waiter about all the smokers around you ruining your meal. Now, I understand Emma didnt choose to be put there, but I think the response is to clarity it with the managers, who I am assuming were not aware of the Jewish laws, rather than take personal offense when people realize their laws that they come to the hall for are not being upheld. In general, do I think that there are times where campus gives off a sense of exclusivity that can be difficult for those outside of the loop? Absolutely. But in certain cases, including (in my opinion) this one, I think it can be misplaced. I think that issue also demands attention.

    Youre right, Alex, its a tough business figuring out the public/private deal. But I really think there needs to be a sense of looking at it from both sides, rather than dwell on personal anecdotes that might not reflect the big picture.

  3. Jay, assuming you’re the same person as J, don’t be a jerk after I defended you (In reference to post 37).

    Emma is not talking about refusing to follow the rules at work, she’s talking about the fact that she works being an infraction of the rules. And if we’re having trouble defining public and private here it’s because it’s pretty damn complex. If my religious beliefs as a doctor require me not to assist an abortion, can I try and prevent my patients from doing so? Different scale, same issue. Religious beliefs that have effects towards others are right on the line between public and private, which is why we have so many conflicts in this country over them.

    And the fact that we’re having a conversation on kosher laws DOES detract from (add to?) Neda’s message. Ethnic identities are inherently exclusionary. To emphasize Judaism on campus means to marginalize other identities. That doesn’t mean we should make Brandeis less Jewish, it means that we should be aware of other identities and not immediately disbelieve that people who don’t know what Noahide or Halachot mean can sometimes feel excluded from this campus.

  4. Im confused Emma- you brought up Jewishness, and we’re responding. What part of this is distracting? And if you are so concerned about jewishness “overtaking every conversation”, why bring it up?

    Sorry in advance if this post is distracting.

  5. okay, here are two situations that i would see as an infringement on people’s rights in sherman:

    1) penalizing a student who kept the sabbath and didn’t want to work on saturdays.

    2) either being deceitful or negligent about the status of the kosher food and silverwear.

    but here’s the thing–i needed to make money and the hours at sherman that i was offered were very early on saturday mornings. why is my practical need for money less important than someone’s spiritual need to not be served by someone who happened to be born to jewish parents? there was no deceit involved in my employment and probably none of the people eating at sherman knew that their food had been prepared by a jew, which, i believe, gets them off the hook in terms of violating laws (of course, i also think there’s a school-wide problem of students not knowing enough about and respecting the food service and custodial staff, et cetera).

    this all comes down to my belief that the school (and society at large) is and should be secular. there are practical concerns about food, for example (is it healthy? is it sustainable? are dining services being honest about what’s in it?) and there are spiritual concerns, which are no one’s problem but your own. but this clearly isn’t a position that you hold and it’s distracting from neda’s eloquent post (which is, in part, about the overtaking of every conversation with a separate conversation about jewishness), so i’m bowing out now.

  6. I disagree on the private/public aspect, because the kosher dining hall, while public in the sense that anyone can eat there (obviously), is private in that it follows a strict code that allows observant individuals to eat there. I therefore really dont understand how asking someone working there to adhere to those rules is somehow imposing on you.(Good call anticipating the next argument, but I really dont see how you can argue your first point then claim that kosher food should still be offered. I hate to provoke, but can you explain how those two opinions are consistent?)

  7. This conversation has been hijacked, but whatever.

    First of all, I do see something hypocritical about a Jewish law that says that keeping the Sabbath and all it entails (rest, time for prayer, time with family) is of upmost importance, but that shouldn’t extend to anyone else.

    Your cheeseburger and ham sandwich examples aren’t valid because you’re talking about a private action. I live off-campus with one of my best friends here, who happens to be an Observant Jew, and I don’t get upset with her because she can’t call me on Shabbat or won’t eat something that I prepared on the Sabbath. It’s her choice and doesn’t affect me. If I made a cup of coffee for a Mormon and she didn’t drink it, it would be entirely fair. But once you extend religious laws into the public sphere (including campus dining services) it becomes more complicated and people who aren’t religious wind up being implicated more and more. That’s where the feeling of resentment comes from–you aren’t any more important than me within this school or this society or whatever, yet I’m constantly expected to deal with your PRIVATE beliefs and lifestyle choices, when mine are (at best) ignored and (at worst) ridiculed. This isn’t to say kosher food shouldn’t be offered, by the way, because I can see that is going to be the next stage in the argument.

  8. For what it’s worth (I realize the conversation’s been sidetracked largely because of me), I think that when comments like Neda’s come out, the proper response is not to ask whether we personally agree with her feelings, or whether we personally have experienced what she says she has experienced (although these might be secondary questions), but rather to ask ourselves why we have members of our community who feel this way and what we can do to minimize these feelings of second class citizenship.

  9. Emma-

    I ask that you please try to respect Jewish beliefs. It’s part of tolerance. It is their business whether you are preparing their food, because it affects whether or not the food is truly ok for them to eat.

    It isn’t “hypocritical” for Jews to allow non-Jews to work on Shabbat in making their food. It’s actually one of the finest things about Judaism in my opinion, that there are multiple paths to spirituality and that non-Jews may follow the Noahide commandments.

    When you ask that Jews should be grateful that you’re getting paid to prepare the food,what do you mean? In what way should a practicing Jew be grateful when one puts a bacon cheeseburger on his plate? I would be grateful for the thought and the effort in trying to prepare me the food, but that wouldn’t make the food any more acceptable. Similarly, a practicing Jew might be grateful as to the work that went into his Jewish-made Saturday meals , but this doesn’t mean he should have to eat if it is against his beliefs.

    I understand that you had a negative immediate reaction upon learning about Jewish laws. I recommend that rather than judging a book by its cover and jumping to conclusions you instead try to dig beyond the surface, listen to others’ views, and aim for better understanding. It’s unfortunate that you’ve chosen to misunderstand an entire religion. I fight similar struggles against Islamaphobes who take a passage out of context, interpret it their way, and assume that their interpretation is not only a correct interpretation but the only interpretation.

    Sahar- I remember in a recent post you talked about being a practicing Jew. I hope that regardless of whether you follow these particular Halachot you’ll come to the support of Judaism in this case.

  10. Note: Upon rereading this, I fear I didnt make something clear. The Jewish law is that food made for Jews on the sabbath cannot have been prepared by a Jew (its a little more broad than that, encompassing more situations, but thats the general idea). The rule is NOT that observant Jews should chastise or be rude to those who do not follow the sabbath. (I just wanted to make sure this was clear, since that seemed to be the implication from what I wrote.)

    So your issue would be akin to slaving away for 3 hours on a ham sandwich for a friend, then getting offended when said friend wont eat it because he/she keeps kosher. Again, not the person, but the rules.

  11. Emma-

    I hope you realize that the fact that Jews are upset that a Jew is working on the sabbath is based on Jewish law- this has nothing to do with Brandeis or its students. I understand your problem, but its with Judaism as a whole, not the people. They arent trying to make you feel bad, and they arent trying to oppress. They are following the rules, as uncomfortable as that might seem. Bring it up with Rabbis if you have a problem, but please don’t try and pin this on students trying to adhere to their religious views.

  12. @ Alan Royals

    did you read what i wrote? i would prefer that 1) people not concern themselves with my faith and acknowledge that it’s not their business if i choose to work on saturdays, and 2) that they realize how hypocritical it is to get upset because a jew is working as opposed to anyone else. the food doesn’t magically appear for your benefit. if you’re going to eat there, you should be grateful to whomever is getting up at 6:30 to feed you instead of worrying about how it affects your religious practices.

  13. I could not disagree more with Emma’s story about practicing Jews. I see it as people observing the way they choose to observe while respecting others’ freedom to do the same. It seems like you would prefer that people proselytize in Sherman.

  14. Also–As a graduating senior and a (very) secular Jew, I think people should be able to come forward and say that they don’t feel comfortable in the environment that Brandeis fosters. It doesn’t mean that they’re whining or that they “hate Jews,” it just means that it’s very difficult to be part of a community that doesn’t necessarily reflect your values or lifestyle. I’m part of the “Jewish majority” but even I feel uncomfortable with the public displays of faith and “Jewishness” that go on. It doesn’t mean I hate everybody wearing a kippah, but it does mean that I often feel strange or left out or like I might be judged for my personal opinions. If I feel like that within my own community, then I can’t even begin to imagine how frustrating it must be to be a Muslim or Hindu or non-white or whatever facing the white, Jewish, upper-middle-class majority.

    Here’s a weird little story that I think partially illustrates the problem of “Dude, your lifestyle is not my problem” that’s rampant at Brandeis: I used to work at Sherman dining hall, on the Kosher side. I was telling my friend about it and I told her about how I’d get up really early on Saturdays to set up for the Shabbat lunch. She was really horrified that I was working on the Saturday because I’m Jewish, even though I’m not observant and I’ve never kept the Sabbath. She wanted to know if the people at Sherman knew I was Jewish and I said, I didn’t know, they didn’t ask me. But the thing that bugged me was that she wasn’t concerned about my “salvation,” she was concerned that the Orthodox Jews were eating food prepared by a Jew on Shabbat, which is against their rules. And the idea that it would have been okay if I were Christian, as well as the implicit suggestion that I not be allowed to work on Saturdays (anyway, how are they supposed to figure that? What if someone is lying about being Jewish? Should they only put Asian-Americans and Latinos on Saturday shifts so they can eliminate most of the chance that a Jew is going to wash their dishes?) also bothers me. It’s not based on concern for anything but your own traditions and values. I’m not saying that would be the reaction of everyone at Brandeis who eats in Sherman on Shabbat, but I think it does betray a certain idea many people here hold about having their lifestyles accommodated for, often at the expense of other people’s.

  15. “So, yes, this is a place for Jewish identity. But Brandeis represents more than that– it’s an institution originally created to give minority people a safe-haven, a shelter from outside hate, a time to solidify and progress through scholarship.”

    Bingo. Dead on. Perfect. That’s the legacy of Brandeis that I’m proud of and the one that I see slipping away.

  16. Neda,

    It’s things like your comment that make me sad you’ll be abroad next semester, and that you and I don’t have any classes together this semester. Seriously. Enjoy your semester away, because you absolutely deserve it, but this campus will be lacking something in your absence.

  17. To Anonymous (#4),

    You make a very good point, but I don’t think it’s the point you intended to make. My post is not a statement of equality at Brandeis, instead it exposes the very inequalities you are indefinitely experiencing and have seemingly accepted. I am certain that when you do graduate from Brandeis, after keeping your head down, middle finger pointed, under treatment with medication and counseling, you will understand it helped no one, especially you. Eventually, you will find that the real world is a much more unequal, hateful, place than Brandeis and any possibility of changing that was gone the moment you decided equality wasn’t worth the fight. History stands against you and you have yet to recognize the vast progress America has undergone to reach the privileges you, as a minority, even have.

    I specifically took the time to respond to you for the simple reason that i sincerely hope you will change your mind before it’s too late. You are powerful, no matter what people say or do otherwise; that is essentially why the system is in place– to physically and mentally convince you this is the way the world looks now and forever.

    Lastly, I didn’t cry, I wrote instead. And look at what happened: More love, More love, More love, Bring on all this love…

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

  18. Oh, also, amazing post, Neda. Your strength never ceases to amaze me. You have such a way with words that leaves me astounded, whether in class, during your spoken word performances, or in written form.

  19. J-

    Institutional oppression maintains the American sense of social hierarchy, placing the white, rich, Anglo Saxon, heterosexual male at the peak. In the case of Brandeis, the white, rich, Jewish, heterosexual male takes the peak. Let’s consider examples of oppression for each, as you requested. Remember, we’re looking for examples in which the hierarchy is reinforced, reminding those outside of the peak that they do not belong. And as Lev said, they are often heavily coded, but still present.

    Race: Let’s consider the controversy last year of the Racial Minority Senator. Now, it’s not the discussion itself that reinforces the hierarchy necessarily, but it is the common responses that it receives which demonstrate the oppression. In this case, many white people claimed that it gave more representation to minorities, which they deemed unfair. That type of comment ignores the the historic inequality faced by racial minorities – the comment insists that we must focus on the present (which is still not equal) and ignore the past. When we ignore our past of racial divisiveness, we create a present where we forget that different races are still systematically disadvantaged in the US, which is reflected at Brandeis.

    This is the point where you will undoubtedly ask, “How is this reflected at Brandeis?” Take a look at which schools and areas are targeted for racialized recruitment by Brandeis admissions. Brandeis is so dedicated to specific recruitment, that they have a faculty member at admissions whose role is specifically “diversity recruitment.” Of course, you’ll mention TYP – whose funding has been cut – and Posse, but these programs, while invaluable, fail to meet the need. When you ignore TYP and Posse recruitment, you’ll find that Brandeis targets wealthy minority communities… but, fear not. Most other schools do that too.

    Socioeconomic: This should be obvious, but I will explain anyway… and with a more personalized account, so we can feel like you and I are building a friendship. So… when I went to Brandeis, I was on a massive amount of financial aid – thank heavens! The last school year, Brandeis met about 90% of my need, which is excellent but not perfect. Then, of course, Brandeis fell into hard times. The financial aid office insisted that they were giving out more aid than ever before and that everything would be okay, but after that Rose Art announcement by Jehuda, I was a little uncertain. So… I filled out some transfer applications. I got accepted to a couple places, and went to financial aid to discuss what my aid package for this school year would be if I stayed, considering the aid packages of the other schools. Brandeis promised me more than 100% of my need – above and beyond. They wanted to woo my decision to stay on the promise of financial security. Thankfully, I didn’t fall for it. Before I withdrew, I received a bill for the next semester… with $5,000 worth of debt added. Yeah, this might not seem like a lot to you, but for a girl who is SO dependent on financial aid, that’s a big deal – and a big lie. So, how does this represent maintenance of the social order? The discussions with financial aid made me feel as though my contributions to Brandeis were worthy of meeting my necessary aid. But, as they reserve the right to change the package at any time, they added about 5X more debt for one school year because the students don’t matter – the budget does. They talk a mean game, but the interest is not in funding for accepted students, but in barely maintaining the facade of interest for personal gain. (That gain being more applications, which leads to more prestige, etc…) Ideally, Brandeis would love students who could pay full tuition – and after working in Admissions, they seem to prefer taking those students off the waitlist most – not so much building a system which provides equality in an unequal world.

    Religion: The forbidden kosher side of Sherman, the odd hours at Einsteins on Friday, and the strategic selection of holidays are all geared towards observant Jewish students. While this may add a lot to the culture of Brandeis and help the population that it is intended for, it serves to remind everyone else outside of that group that they are not the dominant group. There’s no real way to remedy that unless every holiday for every religion was accounted for, among other things, and I’m not saying that this should be the case. But as Villanova has a crucifix in every classroom, and Duke University’s Methodist Chapel is the most prominent and expensive building on campus, they serve as symbols to remind outsiders that they are, in fact, outside. This continues to reinforce the social structure. The Brandeis chapels were built with the intent to symbolize equality, but when you shove MSA in the basement of Usdan and call it a day, in addition to the other reinforcements of the norm, it defeats the purpose.

    I’d continue, but I’m running out of steam. So, heteronormativity and sexism will have to wait…

    If you want to do some reading on the topic and get a better sense, I suggest either Racism Without Racists or White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era, both by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva.

    *This post was not proof-read before publishing.

  20. I guess thats where you and I disagree- I would hardly consider people trying to stay within their comfort zones (i’m guilty of this) as being oppressive, and at the very least im not sure that hanging out mostly with Jews trickles down to treating minorities badly (don’t they also stay within their comfort zones?)

    I’d also like to further point out that I still have yet to be given an example of this systematic oppression that exists on campus, though I’m assured it exists but is just invisible (I’m not sure what your take on God is, but if you remove “systematic oppression” everywhere its been used and replace it with “God”, youll understand why im an atheist.) Lev, I would appreciate it if you examined the phrase itself and think about its implications before arguing about how a few individuals may or may not be acting poorly towards others, regardless of the intent.

  21. Mmm, I disagree that the article makes it clear that its because of ‘personal feelings of insecurity.’

    With that said, even if that is what it indicated, the question is still: why do those feelings of insecurity exist? Are they completely unjustified? Or maybe they are legitimate feelings based on the way that the Jewish and white majority on campus treat minorities?

    I believe the latter.

    I don’t think systematic implies malicious intent. Most everyone would deny the charge that they are “racist,” thereby implying positive intent. But there is still a lot of racism out there operating under the guise of positive intent. This is one of the ways the oppression stays invisible.

  22. First of all, Neda you know love you. Hang in there, because you when you speak your mind as eloquently and as frequently as you do, it contributes enormously to the open-mindedness and positive intellectual discourse on campus. The uninformed and insensitive opinions expressed regularly at Brandeis pale in comparison to the more sophisticated dialogue going on between the different groups, and I think that’s what ultimately counts.

    In response to J, and also Anonymous #4, I think the most important point may have been missed, and that is that Neda wrote this piece as a personal testimony to her sometimes negative experience of being a minority on campus. True, their are many minorities on campus, and each has a unique set of issues, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t admit to at least a certain degree of tension between Jewish and Muslim communities in general. Therefore it stands to reason that Neda, a vocal leader on campus, as well as (I think) the only woman on campus who wears hijab, would be subject to the consequences of this tension. For this reason, I think this discussion really isn’t about oppression per se, but how she is affected by Brandeis’s unique cultural dynamique. Oppression is a loaded word, and I would agree with Lev that its existence on campus really depends on the definition. Its an important issue that perhaps merits its own post. But in terms of this one, I would say that no one besides Neda herself has the right to define her experience here, and that there is no should about how she feels. I know that I have the privilege of being in the racial majority at Brandeis, so I really don’t know what it is to feel so targeted at school. For this reason, I think everyone can benefit from simply listening and taking in what she has to say, if only for the sake of gaining a new perspective, and without making this a political discussion. We are lucky she is sharing her experience, and we should show respect by not projecting whatever image of Brandeis we hold onto her’s.

  23. I read both articles -pardon my ignorance, but can you explain how that answers my (I thought) simple question? Segregation exists, of course, but I think the article makes clear that this is more because of personal feelings of insecurity, not “systematic oppression” which (I assume) implies that the University as an institution is part of it and that there is malicious intent(I didnt pick up on that from either your post or the original article- am I wrong?)

  24. Lev-

    I appreciate the reasoned response. I’ll concede that I don’t exactly spend too much of my waking life trying to look for oppressive undertones on campus, though having taken some of the courses both you and Rachel have recommended (though even if I didn’t im not quite sure why that would make my comments any less valid) and liking to think that I’m not too naive about these things, I would still argue that we’re overreacting here.

    If you could give me some examples of the oppression that you are referring to (the “invisible systematic oppression” as opposed to the more blatant type I was discussing in earlier posts), I would appreciate it. My issue here is when people start throwing out extreme words like “systematic oppression” (let me be clear- Neda did not use those words in her very valid post) and leave us to take their word on it without any sort of explanation or evidence.

  25. I feel stupid for getting into this debate because its obviously not going anywhere. But I’d rather participate than work on my papers.

    J –

    I think part of the problem here is that you are using a different concept of oppression than Rachel, Neda, Comrade, etc. are using.

    If you only want to talk about oppression in terms of incidents or policies (the most visible manifestations of oppression), than you are correct to say that there is not much oppression towards non-Jews at Brandeis.

    Oppression works on a deeper level – and thus it usually goes entirely unnoticed by those who do not directly experience it. This is why it is probably easy for you to say “it doesn’t exist.” You don’t feel it, don’t experience it, don’t see it, therefore its not a problem… to you.

    The concept of invisible systematic oppression should be something that all Jews should actually be very familiar with. Given that anti-Jewish oppression is largely invisible, but still very much existent within the western cultural narrative.

    The most visible examples we see of it though are usually coded beyond recognition to most people (at least most non-Jews). That is to say, sinister references in the media to ‘New York values’ or ‘Hollywood values.’ Certainly not directly implicating Jews, but hinting at it. The historical tendency of anti-Semitism is to go invisible for long periods of time (i.e. Germany in the 19th and early 20th centuries) before suddenly reappearing.

    Amazing invisible oppression. Invisible if you’re not looking for it (or actively seeking to prove that its not there)…. but visible, tangible, painful and real to those who experience it. I understand this is not a very concrete explanation of oppression – other people have done that far better than I ever could in just a comment on a blog (Seriously, take some WMGS or AAAS or AMST or SOC courses).

    Look around, try to spot it, its not too hard to notice it once you know its there (there is quite a lot of it).

    But you may just have to take Neda’s word for it.

  26. So, to summarize-

    You cant tell me what oppression Brandeis commits, but youre sure it still happens. You also arent sure how to define it, but have no problem using the term (or at least supporting those who do). You are also basing your accusation of oppression based on pure speculation as to the reasons behind someone being invited (reasons that, to be honest, seem to be completely irrelevant.)

    I understand your argument that this is not the right place to have Oren speak, but thats not what im talking about- im just focusing on this supposed oppression that apparently very clearly exists but nobody can actually explain. As for Neda’s post, I have similar issues- apparently she felt oppressed, but aside for one incident in which a single individual did a terrible act (are we also assuming this person was Jewish?), apparently im to understand that institutional oppression exists. I guess i’ll just have to take your words for it.

  27. Institutional oppression isn’t ever going to be something based on a single action, J, which is part of why it is so insidious. Have you taken any classes that discuss issues of oppression? AAAS and WMGS courses can provide a pretty good background on these things. I don’t really consider myself qualified to define institutional oppression at all, actually. But as a general example- do you think Michael Oren was chosen because he was the honorary degree recipient whom the graduates would be most interested in? Or because he would appeal most to the Jewish donor base? When the University as an institution makes decisions based on appealing to a certain group (generally, the Jewish donor base) they are ignoring other viewpoints on this campus and creating a sense that those viewpoints do not matter to this institution. Does that make sense? And particularly, inviting Michael Oren to speak at Commencement shows that the University as an institution would rather appeal to the Jewish donor base than consider how this choice affects the 50% of this campus that is not Jewish, because Commencement is not an event that people can just ‘not attend’ or where people can ask questions, nor does Commencement provide the opportunity for those who disagree with Oren to provide any sort of rebuttal.

    But I really don’t think that Oren is the point of this post. Neda’s post encompasses so much of the ambivalence she feels from this university towards her and her fellow non-Jewish students. In many ways, Neda’s issues are far more important than Oren speaking at Commencement, as they pervade beyond one event with one speaker to the whole of life on this campus.

  28. Sorry Rachel, but can you give me an example of the “institutional oppression” that Brandeis commits? I really dont see how asking a qualified historian in a position of power that is extremely relevant to the discussions that take place at Brandeis is somehow oppressing non-Jews at the school, just like I wouldn’t think inviting a Jordanian to speak would be oppressing the other half, or inviting the mayor of Newark would be oppressing the members of school who dont live in the north east.

  29. J- Comrade is absolutely right in using the term “oppression.” He’s not referring to you personally oppressing the anyone else at Brandeis. He’s referring to institutional oppression, which is structural and systemic, and has nothing to do with you as an individual and everything to do with the structure of our society (and our university) as a whole. Some of us live our lives in a manner that privileges us within the Brandeis community (myself included- I’m an observant Jew). The existence of privilege necessitates oppression.

    Neda, thank you for this piece. I think it’s easy for the Jewish community, both at Brandeis and looking in on us, to forget that in most of the world we don’t have this privilege of having our needs and observances recognized, to the point where it is easy to forget the other 50% of the university’s population. People are so stuck on Brandeis as a Jewish institution that they would rather exclude and alienate the rest of the student body than listen to viewpoints that are not appropriately Jewish, pro-Israel, and pro-Judaism at Brandeis.

    I didn’t come to Brandeis because I wanted to be at a Jewish institution (though it’s certainly nice to know that I won’t have to worry about missing class for holidays). I came here for a lot more than that.

    “[Brandeis is] an institution originally created to give minority people a safe-haven, a shelter from outside hate, a time to solidify and progress through scholarship.”

    This is part of why I’m here, and it’s time we recognized that as a university.

  30. “So, yes, this is a place for Jewish identity. But Brandeis represents more than that– it’s an institution originally created to give minority people a safe-haven, a shelter from outside hate, a time to solidify and progress through scholarship. Brandeis symbolizes endurance of difference and embraces strength through productive, respectful means.”

    I believe in this completely. Thank you Neda, for being so honest and eloquent in expressing your feelings and thoughts. I hope going abroad gives you some much needed air.

  31. @Anonymous
    You exhibit nothing save that you have the privilege of being represented and respected in the discourses at Brandeis, otherwise you would be aware of the divisions of this community and the corollary of your privilege – oppression of others. You say nothing save that you’re unashamed of actively, patriotically participating in the construction of this privilege/oppression system. Try to be better, plz.

  32. Anonymous:
    I think your statement is absolutely true, but I don’t think you recognize its implications.

  33. I don’t know which Brandeis you’re attending… clearly not the one I am at.

  34. There’s no point in crying about this. Brandeis wasn’t created to foster minorities, it was created to foster a specific minority, Jews. Obviously they’re going to make sure they’re fully accommodated because it’s their version of FUBU (for us by us). I’m a minority here too and you just have to accept that life isn’t going to be easy. I’ve seen minorities treated better in so many other colleges in comparison to Brandeis that it’s ridiculous. I’m sure Brandeis is the only college that places it’s MSA in the basement of a cafeteria next to the girl’s bathroom. The best thing we can do is keep our heads down, try to be the best we can and give them the finger when you get your degree because you’ve earned it and there’s nothing they can do about it.

    That’s right, I’m not uncle Tom, I’m not buying into your equality crap because there is no equality. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can realize that the best thing you can do is make the most of your education here and then get out of here and try to pretend it didn’t happen through medication and counseling.

  35. I think this is a false representation of Brandeis. There are plenty of nonreligious folk, militant atheists, and apathetic people at Brandeis. Many of us are racial minorities too. We do not have lounges or associations, or a collective group much of the time.

    You should not allow your feeling of Brandeis being overwhelmingly Jewish color your feelings about the whole institution.

  36. Incredible and so true. We cannot afford to give each other anything less than our full respect and love and willingness to communicate honestly. “My personal, religious choices have been the only thing to give me a deep piece of mind during a disturbing, conflicting time in our world.” What this line made me think of in the context of your post is that every member of the Brandeis community should be able to count on Brandeis as something that they can turn to in order to weather this “disturbing, conflicting time in our world.” It’s us against the world, not us against each other!

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