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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Letter to the Editor: A welcoming campus

Published: December 9, 2005
Section: Opinions

To the editor:
As a Gentile, I strongly disagree with Kevin Montgomerys portrayal of Brandeis Jews in his Dec. 2 editorial, “A memoir of a 'Goy' at Brandeis,” in which he contends that Brandeis Jews discriminate and are racist towards Gentiles on campus. He asserts that while it did not take me long to figure out there was a Jew-Gentile divide on campus;

I never thought it would be downright racist.

This is not an accurate depiction of my experience at Brandeis and I do not feel it reflects the overall attitude of the campus at large. I live in an eight-person suite with seven Jews, and each and every one of them is among the nicest, most open-minded people I have ever met. I have met people at Brandeis who do not think much of people who do not share their religion.

Indeed, Ive talked with people who are intolerant of just about every minority that I can think of, but racism would not be a fair charge to levy against the many tolerant, open-minded, and wonderful people that go to Brandeis. Just today, my suitemates not only encouraged me to buy a Christmas tree but insisted that I do so, and when I brought one back, they shouted: Merry Christmas! as I walked in.

It is true that there are plenty of people on campus who would never date someone who is not Jewish. It can be a little frustrating to know that since I am Catholic, there is a sizable percentage of women on campus who would never consider dating me, not just because I am a dork, but merely because of my religion. The vast majority of the time, however, this is not from racism or hatred, but rather just their religious beliefs. They feel their religion instructs them to marry someone who shares their faith. My religion encourages that too.

Sure, there are awkward, and a few unpleasant moments that arise from differences of religion on campus. Last year, Good Friday, the most solemn day on the Christian calendar when they fast and observe the death of Jesus, and the Jewish feast of Purim, a celebration of the salvation of the Jews in Persia that is especially known for its intense partying, occurred on the same day. There was some anxiety over this.
Last year, I also overheard someone talking about holding a money pool as to the exact time the Pope would die, and this bothered and offended me somewhat.

Overall, though, I have been surprised at how little inter-religious tension exists and just how much my religion and others have in common. Both religions emphasize the importance of compassion and service to the world at large. Furthermore, for the goys on campus, being a minority is a unique and valuable experience.
 Michael Bohen '08