Something Worth Celebrating

On Friday, I woke up before 8:00 am for the first time in probably over a year to set up the Great Lawn for Celebrate Brandeis. I think the approximately 300 Brandeisians who attended Celebrate Brandeis would also attest that waking up early was well worth sacrificing some sleep.

On December 3rd at 8:45 am the Westboro Baptist Church arrived in Waltham with a message of religious intolerance and extremism. Instead of fueling the fire with more antagonism, we responded by celebrating our values: tolerance, pluralism, social justice and love.

We ate, sang songs of peace, painted and danced in what was probably Brandeis’ largest Hora. The lawn was filled with undergraduates as well as graduate students, faculty, administrators, staff and Waltham community members. President Reinharz and President-elect Lawrence were present to support this student-led initiative, as well as all four of the Chaplains.

Throughout the rest of the day, the events in the SCC and the success of Hillel’s Harry Potter Shabbat further displayed Brandeis’ diversity and overarching commitment to pursuing a better world.

More significantly, we raised almost 4,000 dollars for Keshet, a Boston based Jewish GLBTQ organization. Over 1,400 individuals signed our “Commitment to Celebrate” statement:

Although Celebrate Brandeis may have originated as a productive and meaningful response to the “visit” from Westboro Baptist Church, in my opinion, it took on a life of its own; Brandeis, like many places, is oversaturated with groups, activities, and service projects. Students at Brandeis come from across the globe, representing a wide spectrum of faiths and political perspectives. However, on December 3rd, we stood completely united in supporting Hillel and the wider Brandeis community not in spite of our differences, but because of them.

Personally, I felt very empowered, humbled and overwhelmed by this positive response. Celebrate Brandeis originated from the minds of a couple passionate students sitting in Hillel Lounge on a Saturday night. It grew to include the voices of over 100 concerned students joining together in the Castle Commons for a shared purpose. The culmination included a massive cross section of campus with the support of the administration, staff, alumni, family, friends and the wider Boston community.

December 3rd has come and passed; but this does not mean we should forget this experience or stop being united through our diversity and pursuing social justice. Because at Brandeis, we know that we are better together. Westboro Baptist Church members have climbed into their van and taken their tour of hate elsewhere. However, I am confident that Brandeisians will continue working to build a world where screams of hate are drowned out by songs of pluralism.

To me, this is something truly worth celebrating.

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”

Inner Peace, Outer Peace

As part of Celebrate Brandeis, our response to the Westboro Baptist Church, the Justice League would like to cordially invite everyone to a meditation session.

Emily Peterson and I will be leading a meditation group at 9am on the Great Lawn, SCC. Many wonderful and creative events will be happening on Friday, and will showcase the talents of the Brandeis community. As part of Friday morning’s activities, we believe it is equally important to celebrate inner peace.

Open meditation is available for everyone, and I would love for you to attend!

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”

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 (