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 InnermostParts.org 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

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.

Marty Peretz half-apologizes


Nicholas Kristof and I do not see the world—and America’s role in it—in the same way. I have sometimes expressed my disagreements with his opinions vociferously (vociferousness is my business). But in yesterday’s The New York Times, he quotes two sentences that I recently wrote—one of them genuinely embarrasses me, and I deeply regret it.

The embarrassing sentence is: “I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.” I wrote that, but I do not believe that. I do not think that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment, not now, not ever. When I insist upon a sober recognition of the threats to our security, domestic threats included, I do not mean to suggest that the Constitution and its order of rights should in any way be abrogated. I would abhor such a prospect. I do not wish upon Muslim Americans the sorts of calumnies that were endured by Italian Americans in connection with Sacco and Vanzetti and Jewish Americans in connection with communism. My recent comments on the twisted Koran-hating reverend in Gainesville will give evidence of that. So I apologize for my sentence, not least because it misrepresents me.

Or has he learned nothing?

The other sentence is: “Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, especially for Muslims.” This is a statement of fact, not value

I’m not really sure how to respond to this as an organization (Justice League). Do we focus on the positive, or on how Peretz doubled down on his contention that Muslim life is worth less than other life?

Your thoughts appreciated