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Brandeis Response Stands Out

Editor’s note: As the Jewish Link was going to press on Wednesday, it was reported that Brandeis’ student senate voted against condemning Hamas for its Oct. 7 attack.

Editor’s note II: The author clarified that a statement was made by the students on Wednesday, October 25. We have appended it * after his initial letter.  

 

Mere hours after news broke of a Hamas attack in Israel, Brandeis University President Ron Liebowitz sent an email to the whole community stating:

Dear Brandeis Community:

This morning we awoke to news of a deadly terrorist attack on Israel. Many of us in the Brandeis community have close family, friends, colleagues, and former classmates and students in the region, and many have spent a frightening day trying to reach those who live there. My thoughts are with all of those who are suffering in the wake of this outburst of violence. In terms of our current students, two are studying in Israel this semester, we have made contact with both of them, and will support them. We are also communicating with faculty in the region, and monitoring the situation to help community members who may need assistance.

We condemn in the strongest way terrorism such as we have seen today perpetrated against innocent civilians; it has always been our belief at Brandeis that engaging and wrestling with divisive issues from a place of compassion is how we begin to heal our broken world.

We have many faculty and staff in a number of academic departments with deep knowledge of the region and the conflict, and I encourage you to pursue learning in this area from those individuals. At the moment, many members of our community are hurting and worried. As has been true at other difficult times, I know you will support each other, and I urge anyone in need of additional support to make use of the campus resources listed below.

On Monday, October 9, Brandeis Hillel hosted a gathering in our Jewish chapel on campus, which was attended by over 150 participants, and there was no more sitting or standing room left inside. People were crowded in the garden outside to listen to the tefillot and remarks given by campus rabbis, students, and a perek of Tehillim read by President Liebowitz.

On Tuesday, October 10, Brandeis Hillel bussed and Ubered 70 students to a joint kumzitz with Harvard and MIT Hillel at MIT, which was attended by over 100 students, sitting outside, mourning together in slow shira, with speeches from Rav Ariel Cohen, our OU-JLIC educator, and Israeli students.

On Wednesday, October 11, Brandeis’ IAC-Mishelanu club (Israeli students club) hosted a candlelight vigil outside with over 100 students in attendance.

In the days following, students on campus have organized multiple chesed drives, raising money for ZAKA, Hatzalah, MDA, and other organizations helping Israel. We wrote letters and recorded videos of support for our chayalim and chayalot in Tzahal.

Brandeis held its 75th Anniversary celebration on October 13-15; a moment of silence for Israel was included in many of the events; and President Liebowitz also included it in his remarks.

Saturday’s events were capped by the Diamond Celebration, which convened hundreds of Brandeisians under the tent on the Great Lawn for a night of food, drinks, and dancing.

The party started, though, on a note of solemnity, with Liebowitz calling for a moment of silence to reflect on the unfolding war in Israel.

“I’m sure many of you are wondering if we thought about canceling this weekend celebration. We did, briefly. But we decided not to, because we didn’t want terror to dictate how we commemorate the university’s great accomplishments or prevent us all from being together,” Liebowitz said. “Our history, and the history of Israel, are similar in some ways and they are intrinsically linked.”

There have been multiple academic panels hosted by the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, as well as the Crown Center for Middle East Studies for those who wanted to learn more about the current events from experts and professionals.

Former MK Yossi Shane, who is a special adviser to Liebowitz, hosted a roundtable with student leaders who were interested in learning more and discussing the attacks.

The Brandeis community has been nothing but supportive of the Jewish community in the past weeks. There have not been any SJP or BDS protests on our campus; professors have been very accommodating of students who are particularly impacted; and the administration has come out strong with extra security and support for Jewish events.

It’s sad that Jews at colleges in the U.S. are unsafe and unwelcome, but at Brandeis, Jews are welcome, Israel is celebrated, and Jewish students have felt nothing but supported over the past few weeks. I think it’s important to tell that story. Brandeis is one of the best-kept secrets in the Jewish world.

Eitan Marks
Northern New Jersey

*The following letter was sent on October 25:

To the Brandeis community,

The Student Union strongly condemns Hamas, including their recent and horrific terrorist attacks against Israel.

A recent student-led letter circulating our campus states “There is no justification for kidnapping men, women, children, and Holocaust survivors; desecrating bodies; killing civilians; and taunting and beating children. This was inhumane violence.” We agree wholeheartedly with this statement and the need to support our community during this time.

We want to send a message to all of our students, including our Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian students, we are here to support you. We are here for you as your student government.

Our role as representatives of the student body is to listen and support you. We send our heartfelt gratitude to those who have respectfully made their voices heard.

Sincerely,

Brandeis Undergraduate Student Union

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