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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

LettertotheEditor: ‘Hoot’ifyouloveBrandeis!

Published: March 16, 2007
Section: Opinions

To the Editor:

It is with some sadness that I read last week's letter to the editor (“Brandeis not so much a 'hoot' lately,” 9 March 2007). May I offer a very biased insider's view:

We're a hoot indeed, and we've much to be proud of.

Our community has had its share of controversial speakers in my three years as a student here. The high-profile figures who have visited campus during this especially contentious season have been widely accused of undue bias and worse. As a result, we've received much press coverage nationwide.

It might appear to people outside this community that our school has become an ideological war-zone. Last week's letter suggested that Brandeis no longer instills “a love for Jewish life” and that Jewish kids “have to apologize for being Jews.” Were I not a Jewish student here, I might be inclined to conclude the same.

Good news: All is not what it seems. Jewish pride at Brandeis is alive and well.

Sure, we've had controversy. This term, it has come in the form of two speakers who spoke as ideological counterpoints to each other: Hardly an indication of bias. Both were welcomed by a student body that displayed a commendable tolerance for views deemed personally objectionable, and a healthy degree of stamina for “keeping cool” amid the prolonged debates sparked here and elsewhere.

But what about Brandeis the rest of the time? When the speakers have moved on, what remains? Well, we have The Justice and The Hoot, two independent weekly student newspapers in which we exchange ideas freely;

Chalav U'dvash, a student periodical of Zionist thought;

the Jewish-Arab Dialogue Group, a weekly, student-run gathering that challenges minds and hearts;

a large Hillel chapter which includes full-time rabbis and a Campus Relations Committee promoting cooperation and understanding between cultural groups;

a multitude of popular courses in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Near-Eastern/Judaic Studies;

provocative Israeli films;

regular religious activities ranging from Orthodox to Reconstructionist;

a Beit Midrash where students can study Scripture and commentary;

and much more than there is room to mention.

There's one more thing we have: At least one student, the author of these words, who has thrived in the welcoming and enriching atmosphere of Jewish life at Brandeis, and who will be very sad to leave. I can't speak for the entire community, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way.

We have room for improvement. The focus of our dialogues must broaden. We should be more eager to listen to each other and slower to react negatively to provocative views. We should redouble our efforts to reach out to graduate students and those outside the Jewish community, so that all Brandesians might feel valued and welcome.

Despite whatever shortcomings we might have, may I reassure those who would doubt the Brandeis student community's leadership in fostering a deep love of Jewish identity and culture: Our pride is very much alive and well. Come visit us and see! You'll be proud too.

Gut Shabbes to all.

With Love,
Michael R. Sitzman 07

Note: Michael Sitzman is a columnist for The Hoot.