From the SCWSC Vice President’s Desk: Everything Matters
Nearly a month ago, I found myself amongst a group of people in the Brookdale front lounge. I was working alone at a table when I began to overhear the conversation beside me: “The Purim Chagiga was boring and I regret that we stayed in for it,” said one of my fellow Beren students. “I don’t think the Yom Ha’atzmaut day will be fun if we have to go all the way uptown for it. Why can’t they just have something here?” I was partially in and out of my work, listening to their conversation, when one girl noticed I was actually a member of one of the councils that put these events together. She immediately felt embarrassed and noticeably attempted to change the tone of the conversation. The two students sitting with her then began apologizing to me once they realized who I was.
I wanted to let them know, however, that I was here to help them make a change on campus, so I told them that I would love to hear more about what they had to say about these events so I could bring their suggestions back to the councils. The girls looked back and forth at each other, but none of them seemed to have any desire to say anything. I asked again, this time in regards to the Chagiga alone, but they shrugged it off, saying that “it didn’t really matter.”
I often feel frustrated with the negative light that we, as students, have on the community here in YU. Instead of influencing the change we would like on campus, I, as well as many others, often find myself complaining about it. The snowball of complaints have turned the surroundings of YU into a cold, unappreciative environment that grows with each hill it rolls down. After finding myself buried under the snowball of complaints that I and my friends have inculcated into our experience here, I realized that I needed to wipe the sleet that I spread across my tracks and take my first step onto a new path geared towards changing our view of changing YU.
Running for student council last year was my first step. I made a vow not just to identify problems, but to create solutions. I was privileged to gain a seat on the council, and consequently learn from and feel comfortable sharing my ideas with an extraordinary group of student leaders and the staff of the Office of Student Life. It’s been life altering watching the school take a multitude of strides forward, but I feel that often our successes as a community have been overshadowed by what is going wrong. We have yet to strongly recognize the good.
The Torah Activities Council (TAC) president, Adina Cohen, spearheaded an initiative that has allowed the Beren community to take part in a more rigorous and intense learning schedule, bringing the Torah study on our campus to a completely new level. Watching our student body presidents, specifically Nolan Edmonson and Shoshana Marder, put together a vigil for the Pittsburgh community in a matter of hours filled me with reverence towards their desire to take a stance that YU supports every single Jew, no matter the community they belong to. Our two YUPAC presidents Jake Benyowitz and Shanee Markovitz, were awarded “Advocates of the Year” from AIPAC, showing that effort and passion deserve and will be recognized. The Beren Talent Show brought over 250 students together to celebrate the unique skills each person in this community maintains within themselves and gave them a platform to be shared and supported. The coed Shabbaton broke the status quo and allowed our Beren students to experience a Shabbat in the Heights community. Former YU Macs basketball captain, Michal Alge, became the first female athlete at YU to record 1000 rebound and points.
However, the thing I am most proud of is the International’s and Sephardic Club’s Shabbaton, which took place on the Beren campus two weeks ago. The Shabbaton took months of meticulous planning, as the executive boards of these clubs worked day and night hiring speakers, organizing tedious logistical details, ordering supplies on a limited budget and following up with the Office of Student Life and their acting liaisons. One of the club presidents, Raquel Sofer, worked endlessly with the international community on campus, making sure that all opinions were heard so the Shabbat could be as successful and welcoming as possible. The dedication even extended to Shabbat day itself, when, after more people than they expected showed up, they found room to make everyone feel welcome there.
The Shabbat itself was an eye opening experience. Not only was I was able to witness friendships in the making, see leadership roles be passed down and watch as the students who planned such an incredible Shabbat take in their well-deserved glory. I was also able to see all of it through the backdrop of the the endless amount of effort, meticulous planning, and dedication that went into it. It gave me a new sense of appreciation for what goes on around here, giving a glimpse into the bigger picture.
As the end of Shabbat arrived, I realized that, far too often, people take these moments for granted, failing to see the hard work, perseverance and complete dedication that goes into them. Throughout this year, our leaders brought about change, giving us a roadmap to follow to bring our own ideas to life. We must leave our complaints without vision on the sidelines to make space for criticism that begs for action, while also not forgetting that nothing here comes easy. We must understand that everything matters, and that everyone can play a part. Once we do that, there is not telling how much we can accomplish.
Photo Caption: The Beren Campus Talent Show
Photo Credit: Talya Saban