This article is a part of a larger feature series titled Taking the Temperature of Diversity and Inclusivity at BC in 2018.
n response to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting that took the lives of 11 members of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, Boston College Hillel hosted a community gathering at the Multi-Faith Chapel on Oct. 28. The Facebook event and an email to Hillel members notified the group, as well as members of the greater BC community, that the two-hour gathering would include an opportunity to “say Mourners Kaddish, light candles, and have an open and welcoming space for students and faculty to gather and share how they feel if they would like.”
“Students did express some—I wouldn’t even say anti-semitism necessarily, but people [were] not understanding the magnitude [of] this event in the Jewish community,” said Talia Shapiro, president of BC Hillel and LSOE ’19.
Shapiro noted that BC Hillel does not encounter incidents motivated by anti-semitic attitudes often, but regards the Pittsburgh shooting as a reminder of the persistence of such feelings. Shapiro emphasizes providing Jewish students, faculty and staff with a space to connect and celebrate their shared faith and culture, especially in the wake of acts of anti-semitism that occur both on and off campus.
“I think Hillel is just a nice, casual place for students to connect with other Jewish students, faculty, [and] staff and feel [like] a part of that Jewish community here at BC,” Shapiro said. “It’s a great place for people to gather and know that they are not alone on this campus.”
Throughout the regular year, BC Hillel hosts weekly Shabbat dinners on Fridays and events to celebrate major Jewish holidays, including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, and Passover.
nterim Vice President for Student Affairs Joy Moore released a response to the events in Pittsburgh on Oct. 29, as well as the alleged hate crimes that took place in Kentucky and mail bombs being sent to various individuals and organizations recently.
“I write to condemn in the strongest terms the senseless violent and hateful acts of the last ten-days in Pittsburg [sic], Pennsylvania and Jeffersontown, Kentucky and the rash of mail bombs across the nation,” the statement read. “At times like this, we find strength in our families, our friends and our communities. At Boston College, we are all here to support one another. Please reach out if you want to talk or just need someone to listen. We are united in our resolve to move forward with greater strength….We are BC.”
Given the recent event in Pittsburgh and last year’s Modstock concert that featured B.o.B—whose song “Flatline” suggests anti-semitic views—Shapiro and other members of Hillel are planning on hosting events to educate BC students and faculty outside the Jewish community about Judaism in terms of both faith and culture.
While all of BC Hillel’s events are open to people outside of the Jewish faith and members are encouraged to bring friends of all religious backgrounds, Shapiro is focusing on planning events that encourage students and faculty to engage with and learn about Jewish culture and tradition. Hillel is working on putting together programing surrounding anti-Semitism and opportunities to learn more about Judaism and its culture.
lthough Shapiro praises the overall content of DiversityEdu module the University released in response to the “Silence is Still Violence” protests surrounding racist incidents that occured last year, she pointed to the lack of educational information addressing Judaism and anti-semitism. In addition to modules about racial diversity, DiversityEdu addressed issues regarding sexual orientation and sexuality.
“DiversityEdu focused more on race and ethnicity,” Shapiro said. “I don’t recall it specifically including Judaism or modules about anti-semitism.”
The educational events BC Hillel is organizing will be in-person and include active dialogue. At the moment, the group is looking into bringing representatives from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to campus to host a panel session. Shapiro credits Campus Ministry as being instrumental in providing the group with funding, event space, and resources, but finds that there is a problem with the University administration when it comes to addressing issues regarding religion, race, and identity on campus.
“We are highly recognized by Campus Ministry but sometimes in upper administration we are not always as highly recognized and respected,” Shapiro said. “Obviously, there was that B.o.B concert in the spring and that was a big point of contention for us, and we were kind of left with minimal response.”
In the days leading up to Modstock, over 200 faculty members signed a letter condemning the decision of the Campus Activities Board (CAB) to host B.o.B for the event. Additionally, the BC Hillel executive board released a statement expressing its disappointment at the decision, which involved a vetting process by both CAB and the University.
“Boston College has a strong multi-faith community, but this choice in artist made by the Campus Activities Board isolates the Jewish students, staff, and faculty in the Boston College community,” the statement read. “Jesuit and Jewish traditions emphasize the key role of building and fostering community, but this decision and the recent statement issued by CAB feel like the opposite, dividing our community and making it feel less inclusive.”
Following the May 2 concert, former Vice President of Student Affairs Barb Jones and Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley responded to the the faculty letter and BC Hillel statement with a letter expressing regret over the choice to bring B.o.B to campus and committing to making changes to the vetting process for future years.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor