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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Combating hate: Union raises money to rebuild church

Published: January 16, 2009
Section: Front Page

After learning of a Springfield church that was burnt to the ground on election day, members of the Brandeis Student Union Government are working to raise funds to help rebuild the church.

The predominantly black Masadonian Church of God in Christ was destroyed on Nov. 4 when it was, according to the Boston Globe, “purposely set ablaze in a possible hate crime” in response to the election of Senator Barack Obama, resulting in an estimated $2 million in damages.

“I think that we have an obligation to all of the communities we are a part of to help when we have a tangible way to make change,” Student Union President Jason Gray ’10 said of the Church, which is located about an hour and a half drive from campus.

“We should judge the causes we become involved in not by distance, but by purpose,” he continued. “We have the opportunity to prove that there’s more goodness in the world than hate, and that Brandeis can be a part of that goodness.”

Gray said that he first learned about the church when university President Jehuda Reinharz contacted him.

While Reinharz did not return requests for comment, Gray speculated that Reinharz got involved because he “is active in the world of community service and philanthropy and he is interested in social justice prevailing in this country.”

After learning about the fire, Gray appointed North Quad Senator Andy Hogan ’11 to organize the relief efforts.

“I think that in a post-election world it’s easy to think that we’re also in a post-racism world,” Hogan said. “But we can’t forget that there are Americans who still haven’t got past racism, and the church incident reminds us of that.”

Hogan said that he has been in contact with Masadonian Church leader Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr. in order to plan fundraising events. Robinson did not return The Hoot’s phone calls by print time.

While no concrete plans have been set, Gray said that he hopes the fundraising efforts will emulate the Union’s fundraising techniques last semester, when various clubs used their previously planned events to raise money for hurricane relief.

Additionally, Hogan said that tables would most likely be set up in Usdan and Sherman dining halls where students could donate money to the cause.

Gray said that while he does not expect the Union to raise the full cost to rebuild the church, he is optimistic about the message that the fundraising itself will send to those who perpetrated the crime in the first place.

“I know we’re not going to be able to raise enough money to build back the church,” he said, “but it’s a symbolic and tangible act of unity that can and will combat the hate that started the fire.”