What a difference a week makes! Last week I was focused on book reviews and readings, and my blog could have highlighted the volleyball team’s Little Three Championship or the fact that Eve Shockley’s book of poems (published by Wesleyan University Press) is nominated for a National Book Award. But world events have overtaken the usual news from campus.
When last Saturday I denounced the Hamas attacks on Israel, I was not fully aware of their horrific brutality. And the news has only grown darker since then. Early in the week, Jewish students gathered in front of Usdan to recite a psalm and affirm the importance of our visible presence on campus. The three chaplains hosted a discussion with students of various denominations. I heard it was emotionally intense, as one would expect, but also civil and productive. I am grateful for that. The group Students for Justice in Palestine had an information desk in front of Usdan yesterday, I am told, and people stopped to hear this group’s perspective on the occupation and related matters. We learn from one another while we share this beautiful campus. University climates can, of course, change, but I am proud that so far our students, faculty, and staff have offered one another support.
I have received quite a few messages from alumni and others asking that the university do more, that it stay neutral, or that it punish people who fail to express the views they hold. These are, obviously, unfolding events, and we will continue to do whatever we can to help our students find ways to learn from them. War is a terrible thing, and the news from the Middle East will likely be extremely disturbing in the weeks to come. Reactions are everywhere, and then there are responses to those reactions. Despite the noise, I am hoping to keep performative gestures to a minimum.
I know that some of you have family and friends directly impacted by these events. I do hope you and yours find peace and healing soon.
I often attend Torah Study on Saturday mornings. Today we, like Jews around the world, are “starting over” with Bereshit, Genesis. I’m trying to find some hope in that.