Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson addresses campus tension with communal gatherings for Jewish and Muslim students amid Israel-Palestine conflict

Emerson+addresses+campus+tension+with+communal+gatherings+for+Jewish+and+Muslim+students+amid+Israel-Palestine+conflict

Amid an outpour of campus-wide tension brought forth by the Israel-Palestine conflict, the college’s leading administrators are hosting discussion-based gatherings to offer support for Jewish and Muslim students. 

Emerson’s Social Justice Collaborative, Campus Life, and the Center for Spiritual Life worked to organize the gatherings. Held both on campus and virtually, these gatherings will take place between Jan. 23 and Feb. 5. 

After Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 and taking 240 hostages, Israel began an intense ground operation in Gaza, killing over 24,000 Palestinians. Like many colleges across the country, Emerson recognized its community members had experienced their own bouts of divisive rhetoric. According to an Oct. 30 email sent by President Jay Bernhardt, identity-based, hateful, and harassing incidents on campus were brought to his attention. 

“This is an enormously divisive issue among the Emerson community,” Chris Daly, the vice president of student affairs told the Beacon. 

Within this polarization is deep-seated pain and frustration. 

“From last semester and this semester, I have seen a heaviness, sadness, and a darkness I have never seen in college students before,” said Dr. Lisa Eiduson, a Rabbi and Emerson faculty member. 

After many meetings with students who have struggled in the face of the conflict, Shaya Gregory Poku, vice president for Equity & Social Justice, coordinated with VP Jim Hoppe and Interim Director of Spiritual Life Robert Amelio to cultivate an event where students can have safe and open discussions about what they’re experiencing.

According to a joint statement from Poku, Hoppe, and Amelio, these gatherings are “intended for community space, not education or training.” The statement emphasized the significance of faculty stepping up to acknowledge the tension and pain students are feeling, while also providing the student body with ample opportunity to find community during this time.

“We felt that it was really important to acknowledge that the events happening right now in Gaza and Israel are impacting some of our community members very significantly, and that there’s a real need among some of our community members to find community with each other,” Daly said. While these gatherings are aimed at fostering mutual support and togetherness, college spokesperson Michelle Gasseau confirmed that Emerson is in the process of constructing a program for students to expand their discussions about the conflict.

“Emerson prides itself on being a community of diverse people and perspectives that values social justice and free expression,” Gasseau said in an email to the Beacon. “We are also committed to protecting all Emersonians from bias, threats, and intimidation.”

Collectively, the struggles faced by the student body have not gone unnoticed by faculty members, which led to the decision to plan the current gatherings. Immediately after Oct. 7, the Center for Spiritual Life hosted three gatherings: one for Jewish community members, one for Muslim community members, and one open to all.  

“There was a lot of very raw pain,” Daly said. “Everybody was still trying to make sense of what had happened.”

Since then, SJC, Campus Life, and the Center for Spiritual Life have collaborated to offer support and foster community conversation through events for Muslim and Jewish students. 

“There are deeply held feelings and beliefs between different groups of students that are at odds with each other,” Daly said. “Some students have found ways to have conversations and share ideas in spite of that, but for others, it’s been much harder.” 

With consideration of these complex communication efforts, these events can accommodate students with a sympathetic and organized space to be vulnerable. 

“The principal goal is for students to feel like they’ve had a structured opportunity to talk about their feelings so they can feel more connected with other people, they might feel less alone and feel a sense of community,” Daly continued. 

Jewish community member gatherings began on Tuesday and were intended for all to participate in. The next gathering for Jewish students is on Jan. 31 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Owens Multipurpose Room. The final event is virtual and open to Jewish students, faculty and staff. It will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 6, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 

The first event for Muslim students, staff, and faculty is on Jan. 25 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in The Judee Theater Theater. The second event, for Muslim students only, will be held in the Owens Multipurpose Room. The third and final gathering for students, staff, and faculty will be held virtually on Feb. 5 from 11 to 12:30 p.m. 

The Center for Spiritual Life, Campus Life, and SJC request that all attendees RSVP, as they plan to provide Kosher food for Jewish attendees and Halal food for Muslim attendees. 

The organizers hope these discussion-based gatherings can facilitate supportive conversation and offer students a sense of relief and comfort.

“Community is the most important antidote to what’s happening around the world today,” said Eiduson. “Hopefully, we can find unity in diversity. Even within those two communities, there is hope to be able to accept, enjoy, and celebrate difference and the unity that comes from those differences.”    

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About the Contributor
Margaux Jubin, Staff Writer
Margaux Jubin is a sophomore journalism major from Los Angeles, California. She is currently a Staff Writer for the Berkeley Beacon. Outside The Beacon, Margaux loves live music, hanging out with friends, and spending time in nature.
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