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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

What a poetic way to unite us all

Published: December 3, 2010
Section: Opinions

On Saturday, Nov. 20 I, like many of you, learned that the Westboro Baptist Church planned to protest Brandeis. They specifically targeted Brandeis’ Hillel and stated their objection to Jews as the killers of Jesus. Additionally, they claim we spend our “energies on drunkenness (sic), lust, sloth and greed rather than serving the Lord Almighty;” clearly they don’t know Brandeis.

Some might think that writing anything about this whole chain of events would give more attention to the WBC than they deserve. I agree that the WBC doesn’t deserve even a moment worth of attention; they are trolls in the urban dictionary sense of the word. While they quoted a line from my Torah portion from my Bar Mitzvah on their picket schedule for Nov. 29 I feel there is something worth saying about all of this action on our part, and nothing worth saying about them. It is poetic that a group that spews venomous hatred only serves to unite our community.

A day after this announcement, there was a whirlwind of reaction culminating in a large gathering of students and organizations eager to get involved in a well-planned reaction. That night students filled Castle Commons to plan out and quickly pull off an epic event to celebrate Brandeis. Merely the presence of the community, consisting of undergrads, graduate students and staff was amazing to behold. While there were many ideas on how to respond, the students who rose up to lead this with the assistance of the Student Union and Hillel and the Student Union, were quick to create a structure that would take all the energy we had (the good, the bad and the ugly) and channel it into something great.

Perhaps the core of the celebration of our diversity stems from a simple fact, these people don’t deserve the attention. They don’t even deserve mention in this column. This column isn’t about them; it’s about us and all the amazing responses we’ve prepared in the last week. Instead of investing energy in how to counter opposing voices energies are instead being focused on how best to celebrate the greatness of our community.

There exists the idea that everything has an opposite. To quote Professor Slughorn from the Harry Potter movies, “there can be no light without the dark.” The presence of this group of haters has inspired us to spend the day celebrating the greatness of our community. The planned events are neither about tolerating the intolerant nor about the paradox of being intolerant towards the intolerant, instead the day is simply about celebrating everything that brings us together.

This day shows that even here a brief taste of the bitterness of hate can be utilized to enhance the sweetness of compassion. While compassion is not the polar opposite of hatred, anything on the sweeter spectrum of emotion is only enhanced by the brief bitterness of the hate-mongers. While we students frequently stand dis-united, by political differences, religious differences, philosophical differences etc., in this instance we appear ready to shed our differences and unite in a common cause of celebrating the community that our school is. It seems almost like eating a sweet desert after a brief taste of bitter herbs.

It’s a little sad that it took such concentrated venom to illicit our immune response. Hopefully we can take this unity and continue it not only into next semester, but beyond that.

Oddly enough this whole thing reminds me in a small way of when I went to public high school. While my school was somewhere around 30% Jewish, the exposure and interaction with people of different affiliations gave me a chance to appreciate the differences and ultimately strengthened my Jewish identity. This exposure to a group of haters has similarly strengthened my Jewish identity and my pride as a Brandeis student. Never before have I been moved to say that I’m proud to be a part of this community. I’m proud to be a Brandeisian.