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Only at Brandeis…

Published: November 11, 2005
Section: Opinions


Two years ago seems like such a blur at times. Picking the university that I would attend is all in the hazy past. One thing that I do remember, however, about that entire process was each school telling me that they in fact were unique and unlike any other. Each school I got any sort of brochure from conveyed repeatedly that they were the only school to offer this or that. In a way though, all of these brochures were the same in that they claimed diversity and a better alternative to other universities.

Nearly every day I find myself thinking This could only happen at Brandeis. Dont misinterpret me, this is a positive connotation. Maybe its just being egocentric and prideful of Brandeis itself, but I really believe this is true. At what other university would one have the minority Christian friends being taught the story of Purim? Or for that matter, where else would students drink themselves silly with Manischewitz during the middle of the week as part of a holiday celebration? Well, ok, this is plausible, but probably for entirely different reasons. Itd be tough for me to find another university where campus is relatively quiet on a Friday night until after services are over, while the dining halls close at 8 pm. For that matter, where else could one go to find a Kosher C-Store or a Kosher Cop as well? A NEJS department? How about having four buildings with the same name? What about having competing columnists named Rafi and Herschel who consistently write about their Jewish mothers? Or Yelling Yael or Sarah into a crowd and seeing three to four people all respond in confusion? Yeah, sure any of these things might exist at other universities, but I can only assume they wouldnt be nearly as prevalent and commonplace. Rather than complain about these things, it makes more sense to realize the quirkiness of this university. Even if one is not Jewish and attending Brandeis, I am sure they come out of it a changed person. I dont think that every university I looked at in those catalogs can say the same thing.

The other day I overheard a couple of rather amusing conversations. One person asked her friend what she was doing that night, and the other responded almost as if it were obvious, saying Being a Jew. The other girl seemed extremely non- plussed about the response. This could happen anywhere, but at Brandeis the phrase seems almost commonplace. Growing up in mid-western America where I was the token Jew at my school, I had always felt a bit alone when it came to religion. The funny thing about Brandeis is that Ive become much less religious since Ive gotten here. Theres no need to be a good representation of my religion any more because Im part of the religious majority here, rather than being one of the few back home. So ironically enough, by being different than everyone else in choosing Brandeis, I (and probably many others) became more the same as everyone else. I feel that Brandeis can definitely have polarizing effects on peoples take on religion. Even though officially Brandeis has no public religious affiliation, the social structure at Brandeis seems rather unique. Everyone at Brandeis is a minority in some form or another. Christians are a minority at Brandeis, while Jews are a minority in society. It makes for an interesting experience of understanding one another.

This whole article came to me when I had another one of these only at Brandeis moments. While in the C-Store, I asked my friend if he wanted to buy some Hummus, to which he replied, Nah, I already had that today. This particular friend is actually in the process of converting to Judaism, and I cant help but wonder how different his life would be if he didnt go here. On my own behalf, Ive almost felt less defensive about my religious beliefs and this has made me more relaxed since I started attending Brandeis. Having these kinds of moments has changed my image of college as well. Popular culture and the media have portrayed college in the Animal House type lifestyle– as a time for massive parties, never going to class, and frequent one night stands. From experience, these few traits dont seem to be the norm around here. Somehow college seems more low key than those 80s teen comedies I so highly enjoy watching.

I guess you could call this a sophomore introspective about the last year and a half. One must experience these little things themselves and redefine their definition of college, because Brandeis certainly isnt another faceless brochure university.