Collegiate Solidarity

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Collegiate Solidarity

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<b>Outside the Box with the Managing Editor</b>

By: Jeremy Stern
Posted: 5/7/07

I have been looking forward all year to writing this, my final column. A last hurrah before I graduate. An opportunity to thank all those who have helped me get to where I am today: my professors, parents, wife, God, yadda yadda yadda... But then 27 college students and five of their professors were gunned down in Virginia, and Yeshiva students barely stirred.

It took a day and a half before any sort of response took place on either of our undergraduate campuses; two days before a respectable, public commemoration. On Monday morning the blood of 32 victims smeared the walls of dormitories and classrooms at V-Tech. Not until Tuesday night did fewer than two dozen Yeshiva students find it important enough to take twenty minutes out of Night Seder for a prayer rally.

I know that people are murdered every day. 104 American soldiers died in Iraq during the month of April alone, and who knows how many tens of thousands are suffering today in Darfur. But the Middle East and Northern Africa are distant, with unfamiliar victims with whom we have difficulty relating. That leaves us with no excuse when the deadliest shooting in U.S. history is perpetrated on an American college campus.

How can we explain our silence, when thousands of our peers at NYU, Columbia, Brandeis, and Penn responded within 24 hours with arrangements for candlelight vigils, memorial services, solidarity rallies, and condolence books? If there is one thing that we do well, it&#39;s Tehillim (Psalms) rallies. Why was one not organized for the Main Beit Midrash at 12 p.m. on Tuesday?

I was appalled at the lackadaisical response from some student leaders to requests for immediate action. Lest you think urgent coordination was impossible, by 6 p.m. on Monday afternoon - only a few hours after the last bullet was fired - the Yeshiva Security Department sent out a blast email notifying the campus community that, in conjunction with the New York Police Department, precautions were being taken to heighten overall campus security. On the other hand, President Joel&#39;s sincere and eloquent email to the president of Virginia Tech took more than two days before arriving in our Inboxes. (For comparison, 29 ystuds were sent out in the interim.)

We are talking about college students and professors. These were not foreign people with aspirations wholly different from our own. At the very least, this tragedy should arouse our concern for our own campus safety. Massacres like this are notorious for copycats who yearn to have their names on the front page of newspapers nationwide, and Yeshiva, as a yeshiva, could be a primary target.

But, I expect more from us than self-centered concern. We must empathize because these victims were part of the greater collegiate community. As sensitive human beings, and as sensitized religious Jews, we must feel their pain because of our shared experience. Just as we expect more from Israel than any other country to serve as a safe-haven for Sudan&#39;s refugees who have fled for their lives, we must expect more from ourselves because this tragedy occurred to people who are much like us. If we are not empathetic, then how does that speak of the enhanced morality which our Torah learning is meant to instill within us?

Sure, some of us eventually prayed, and a meaningful moment of silence was held at the Town Hall Meeting, but what was our initial instinct? Were we shocked and gripped by pain? Did we stop what we were doing and, perhaps, cry? What explains our anesthetized state?

The problem is with our identification, or lack thereof. Because some of us do not view ourselves as members of a "real" university or a "real" college, we fail to identify with the broader community of college students. Yeshiva certainly provides a distinctive undergraduate experience compared with that of other universities, but that dissimilarity makes it no less real. Were we only to appreciate our differences as attributes, would we begin to realize that a world exists, of which we are an integral part, outside of the bubble at 185th and Amsterdam or 34th and Lex.

We have a lot to be proud of. When I transferred here from Brandeis five semesters ago, I could not imagine the opportunities which Yeshiva would provide for me. The relationships which I have established with peers and professors, the academic excellence to which I have been exposed, and the enriching environment which has encouraged me to thrive have truly exceeded my expectations.

Every Wednesday of the school year for the past four semesters I have led campus tours for prospective students and their parents. I conclude every tour as follows. Since arriving on campus almost four years ago, President Joel has inspired all aspects of the university to no longer subsist on mediocrity but rather to strive for greatness. I consider myself fortunate to attend Yeshiva now and not four years ago, because I have benefited tremendously from President Joel&#39;s initiatives and leadership. However, I am truly jealous of the students who will be here in another four years, because the school will certainly be that much better.

I am confident that President Joel&#39;s vision of the big tent will soon materialize, with the student body&#39;s recognition that it cannot stand idly by while blood is spilled on other college campuses.

--

Original Source: <a href=http://media.www.yucommentator.com/media/storage/paper652/news/2007/05/07/Editorials/Collegiate.Solidarity-2892422.shtml> The Commentator - May 7, 2007</a>

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Jeremy Stern

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2007-08-08

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Sara Hood

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Zev Eleff <eleff@yu.edu>

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eng

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Jeremy Stern, "Collegiate Solidarity," in The April 16 Archive, Item #937, http://april16archive.org/items/show/937 (accessed December 21, 2014).