“You Don’t Look Jewish” and Other Tales of Being a Jew at a Catholic College

This past weekend, I sat in C-Shop with a group of my friends eating dinner as a comedian hired by CAB took the stage. We had completely forgotten there would be a performance but decided to stay a little while to hear his act. He interacted with the crowd and played a game where he sang your name and then changed into something else. “What’s your name?” he asked a student. The guy replied and the comedian said, “Well, you’re Jewish.” Don’t worry, the whole thing was wildly funny. He kept going on about the lack of diversity in New Hampshire and looked around the room. “Are all y’all Catholic?” he asked. Seizing a rare moment to embrace my faith, I spoke up -well actually I think I screamed because I have no perception of my New York loudness- so anyway, I screamed out for all of the coffee shop to hear, “I’m Jewish.” And then the comedian said, “Well you’re weird, what the hell are you doing up here with a bunch of Catholics, aren’t they your enemy or something?”

My father’s grandparents were Jews who fled Germany at the breakout of the Second World War. They converted their money and belongings into diamonds and smuggled them out of Germany and to America. When my grandmother told me this story, she made this sound a whole lot more traumatic than it actually was and kvetched about how dangerous it was. She regaled me with tales of her mother, my great-grandmother, braving the journey to America. It wasn’t until I found a picture of my great-grandmother as a young woman, dressed in a luxurious fur coat atop a posh looking ocean liner, that I realized this journey may have been a bit less harrowing than my grandmother originally told me. Wow, grandma. Way to hype it up.

When she arrived in America, my great-grandmother fell in love with a young man whose family was also from Germany. His family would not approve of the marriage unless she renounced her faith. When I think about it, I think they were ashamed or scared of her Jewishness. I know, New York, the Jewish capital of the East Coast, you’d think that being Jewish wouldn’t be a problem, right? She gave up her faith, her identity, that very quality that made her, her, to be with who she loved.

I had always felt a strong connection to Judaism and to my great-grandmother, even though I have attended Catholic school my entire life. My father grew up eating traditional German and Jewish fare and passed this on to me. Winter weekends were full of warm and crispy latkes, matzoh ball soup was readily available at the slightest sign of illness, and no family gathering was complete without my aunt’s homemade rugelach. Still, it wasn’t until I entered college that I began to explore the religious side of being Jewish. You see, for me, there are several aspects of being Jewish. There’s the cultural aspect that I was exposed to from a young age, which was centered around food. There’s the religious aspect, which I did not explore until college. And there are the everyday things that I say or do that make me Jewish, such as words and phrases that I always think are seemingly straightforward and self-explanatory, but my friends have no clue what I’m talking about. (Goy, yente, kvell, tchatchke).

It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I really felt a calling to explore the spiritual aspect of Judaism. It was definitely tough, trying to figure out my spirituality when there was not a space for me on campus. As a Catholic college, Saint Anselm has a number of clubs and societies for Catholics as well as Christians: Knights of Columbus, St. Scholastica Society, Peer Ministers, weekly evening Mass, and prayer groups held by Campus Ministry. But where was my group, my tribe? I was my own little tribe of one, wandering in a metaphorical desert, trying to find my religious identity. (I know, isn’t that just the corniest reference?)

I knew that there were a few nearby synagogues in downtown Manchester, but felt awkward walking into one all alone. What really solidified and helped me grow in my faith was the opening of the Multifaith Prayer room in the newly-renovated Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex. Knowing that I, and other students of various religious backgrounds, had access to a warm and inviting space on campus made it so much easier to explore my faith. For those of you who have not checked it out yet, even if you are not a religious person, I encourage you to go poke your head in when it is not in use.

In an unfortunately tragic way, I found out that there are more Jewish people on campus then I previously thought. In October, Campus Ministry held an Interfaith Prayer Service in remembrance of the victims of the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. I had never been more scared or felt more alone than I did that week, but as soon as I walked into that room, I felt oddly safe. There in that room were professors, students, and faculty members of various religious backgrounds standing together in prayer. My favorite professor stood in a corner, head bowed in prayer, complete with a kippah. (A kippah or yarmulke is a traditional skull cap that is worn by Jewish men and sometimes women.) Since that day, I’ve felt a little less spiritually lonely, knowing that my tribe of one had increased, even just a little bit. The next week, when I received a Star of David necklace that my grandmother had sent to me in the mail, I wore it with pride, and have ever since.

My friends have gone out of their way to embrace my cultural heritage. I had a big Rosh Hashanah dinner, complete with brisket, homemade braided challah, and most importantly, wonderful friends to ring in the Jewish New Year. My roommates fully supported the little Christmas-Channukah display I set up on our coffee table: a white Christmas tree next to a silver menorah. I started taking time the past week and a half that we’ve been back to take a few minutes when I’m near the Student Center to stop inside and say a prayer of thanks.

While being Jewish on a college campus certainly is not easy, and often comes with the statement of “well you don’t look Jewish” (please stop saying this, it’s actually anti-Semitic. You cannot tell if someone is Jewish by their physical attributes), it also has allowed me to share special parts of my life with my friends as well as to grow and explore in my faith.

Although Saint Anselm College is a Catholic institution, I have never felt more accepted and welcomed than I do this year. I like to think that this is because being Anselmian and being Catholic are not mutually exclusive. I know Saint Anselm is a Benedictine Catholic and that the college is founded upon his teachings and those of the Benedictines, but being Anselmian is more than just being Catholic. Being Anselmian is about being inviting to all members of the community. Being Anselmian is fostering a learning environment where everyone feels welcome. Being Anselmian is setting a place at the table for everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

Government Shutdown Enters Second Month, Granite State Impacted

From left to right: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) discusses the shutdown with Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. (Photo by Mark Wilson, Getty Images)

The federal government has now been partially shut down for over a month. Federal employees are working part-time jobs at supermarkets and for ride-sharing apps. GoFundMe, the crowdfunding website, now features hundreds of fundraising pages to help support furloughed government workers.

A government shutdown is when Congress and the president fail to pass and sign legislation funding the federal government and its agencies. The current shutdown is the longest to date, totaling 32 days as of January 22. When the government shuts down, federal workers in the applicable departments are furloughed and do not receive pay. National parks and historic sites are closed or may degrade due to a lack of Park Service employees to properly maintain the site. Businesses that rely on federal workers and agencies also lose money.

The reason for this government shutdown is President Donald Trump’s demand that $5.7 billion be allocated toward a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Democrats in Congress have stood their ground and have refused to give in to the President’s demands. On January 19, President Trump presented a compromise of sorts: in exchange for funding the border wall, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) would be extended by three years. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced plans to bring this proposal up in the Senate. Democrats, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have insisted that the federal government be reopened before any negotiations regarding the border wall, DACA, and immigration reform more generally take place. Senator Schumer referred to the proposal as a “hostage-taking” tactic.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent the president a letter directing him to either postpone the State of the Union address or deliver it in writing as long as the government remains shut down. The speaker cited extreme security costs in preparing for and hosting the address. The Department of Homeland Security said that protecting the event would not be an issue for them. Until President Woodrow Wilson delivered his State of the Union address in person in 1913, the State of the Union had always been delivered as a written letter to Congress since 1800. A day after Speaker Pelosi’s letter made headlines, President Trump denied Speaker Pelosi use of a military plane for a scheduled trip to visit the U.S. combat zone in Afghanistan and suggested that she fly commercial instead.

Outside of the drama on the Hill, the government shutdown is impacting citizens across the country. Over 2,000 Granite Staters have been directly impacted by the government shutdown and left without paychecks. Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH-1) has refused to receive pay until the entire federal government is reopened. In an interview with WMUR, Congressman Pappas said, “As someone who has run a small business, I could not imagine receiving a paycheck while any of my employees are working without pay. For this reason, I write today to request that my pay be withheld until the current shutdown has ended and the entire federal government is reopened.”

Across the state, local businesses, banks, and food pantries are opening their doors to help furloughed federal workers make ends meet. Southern New Hampshire University has established a $1 million emergency fund for students impacted by the government shutdown. The Friendly Church in Portsmouth is offering free meals for furloughed workers, with proof of employment. Click here for a full list of resources available across New Hampshire.

Senator Jeff Flake Visits Saint Anselm, Calls for Compromise and Bipartisanship

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) at the New Hampshire Institue of Politics on Monday, where he talked about a new American politics. (Photo from The Boston Globe)

This past Monday, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) visited the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College to give a talk entitled “After the Deluge: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.” Flake’s visit to Saint Anselm College, a favorite stop for any presidential hopeful, came in the midst of an ugly battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In his speech, Flake lamented the damage that tribalism has done to the United States under President Trump.

“Tribalism is ruining us,” Flake announced to the crowded auditorium, “It is tearing our country apart. It is no way for sane adults to act.”

Some students in attendance agreed with Flake’s message of bipartisanship. Tim Madsen ’19, Chairman of the Saint Anselm College Republicans, expressed his own opinion of Flake’s visit, saying, “He was calling for more civility and bipartisanship in government, something that is certainly a good thing.”

Emily Prud’homme ’19, an International Relations major, also attended the event and shared her thoughts on Flake’s rhetoric: “He gave a thoughtful speech about building bridges between party lines and uniting together as an American people. His message was that sometimes you must fail your tribe to achieve the greater good.”

Flake went on to say that “the only tribe to which we owe allegiance is the American tribe.”

Sean Connor ’20, a Communications major, said he was skeptical of some parts of Flake’s speech. “I think that Senator Flake blurred the line between when it is right to go against partisan lines and when it becomes deconstructive towards progress as a whole. I really respect Senator Flake and his work, but I think that if he wants us to return to his vision of civility, he needs to stop seeing his party as a tribe he is looking forward to disappointing, and more as a people he hopes to work with to a better tomorrow.”

Indeed, Senator Flake remarked that he had failed his tribe, the Republican Party, but said that he hopes to continue to do so and preached a message rooted in the importance of compromise.

He briefly discussed his friendship and working relationship with Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). Coons and Flake gained notoriety when they struck a deal shortly before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to advance Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. Flake demanded that the FBI reopen the background check investigation into Kavanaugh in light of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault.

Saint Anselm students had mixed reactions to Flake’s vote to conditionally pass Kavanaugh on to the full Senate. Prud’homme disagreed with Flake, saying, “I do not agree with his decision to vote with the Republicans. I recognize the complexity of the situation – that this claim of sexual assault occurred when Ford and Kavanaugh were very young.” She continued, “However, sexual assault cannot be undermined no matter how many years pass . . . Denying him would send a message that our country and government is not tolerant of this type of conduct,.”

Hayley Morgan ’20, said, “I didn’t really enjoy the fact he voted for Kavanaugh, but I respected how he used his position in this matter to call for an FBI investigation.” Morgan also attended the protest, saying she did so “because I believe that even if Judge Kavanaugh is innocent of the allegations against him, he has proven that he does not have the temperament to have a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”

Haley Bragdon-Clements ’21, the Vice President of the Saint Anselm College Democrats, said, “I applaud how Senator Flake handled this matter, and I wish that other Republicans had taken the same initiative. I hope to see people on both sides of the aisle coming together and treating this as a nonpartisan issue as how this is handled will set a tone for how this issue is addressed in the future.

Protestors greeted Senator Flake upon his arrival at the NHIOP. (Photo from NHYD Twitter)

Across the street from the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, people voiced their contempt for the Kavanaugh nomination. Nearly 130 protesters, including students, gathered together in protest of Senator Flake and to urge him not to vote in favor of Kavanaugh come time for the full Senate vote.

Dennis Aveta ’20 was one of the student protestors. (Photo courtesy of Aveta)

Molly Benson ’20, a Nursing major, attended the protest. “As a student, I hope this sent a message that if sexual assault is not welcome on this campus, it absolutely should not be welcome or rewarding in the highest court in our country,” she said. “If this Senate confirms Kavanaugh, they are setting a precedent that if survivors of sexual assault come forward, abusers will not be held accountable.”

At the end of his speech, Flake did not take questions from the audience, which is unusual compared to other NHIOP events.

Sean Connor, ’20, remarked that he was not surprised by this change. “I think given the events of the last week, the best way to control that environment was to avoid a questions and answers session. It’s easy for events like this to turn into chaos.”

After his remarks, Flake was immediately swarmed by reporters from various outlets. The senator made it known that he is waiting for the results of the FBI investigation before deciding whether or not to vote in favor of Kavanaugh.

Students Feel Impact of Budget Cuts

As students new and returning moved onto the hilltop for the fall semester, they were faced with the reality that their tuition dollars just don’t go as far as they used to. They slowly learned of a series of budget cuts across departments that drastically impact day-to-day life here at Saint Anselm College.

At the first residence hall meetings of the year, RAs informed their residents that laundry services on campus were now technically ‘free.’ The cost of laundry, however, is now included in the overall tuition and fees each student pays to attend Saint Anselm College. In some residence halls, RAs told their residents that because laundry is free, printing now costs the students. The decision to cut free printing seems to be the cut most directly felt by the student body.

Saint Anselm College utilizes a print anywhere system, which students can access from their personal computer or any school computer and swipe their ID card at a printer station to print documents. In the past, printing was free and students could reload allocated printing funds onto their card free of charge. As of this semester, students will be allocated fifty dollars to use for printing. Once they use up all of the allotted funds, students must use their own money to refill their printing funds. What once was commonly referred to as “monopoly money” has suddenly become much more real, without any official notice.

isabelleprintingStudents have found this problematic for many reasons. Many departments on campus require seniors to write a thesis, which can range anywhere from 25 to 40 pages, or more. In addition to printing their theses, students typically print out the sources they cite which also tend to be lengthy. Isabelle Daigle, a senior in the Politics Department said, “My thesis combined with all of my sources totals to around one thousand pages of paper if I decide to print it all.”

Seniors are not the only one who have been impacted by this change in policy. Students in the nursing department are required to print large amounts of documents for class. If they run out of printing money, these students will have to use their own money to pay for printing, which could amount to hundreds of dollars and negatively impact their learning experience.

Cassandra Bigelow ‘20, a nursing major, explained that she prints daily for her classes and regularly goes through the printing allotment. Now, she feels forced to look elsewhere. “I have been trying to find ways to avoid printing while still keeping up with my classes,” she said, indicating that avoiding printing is forcing her to reevaluate how she studies for classes and takes notes. She continued, “Some majors don’t do a lot of printing, but I know that all nursing majors are disappointed with this policy change and are having to find different ways to study effectively.”

dennisprintingDennis Aveta ‘20, also expressed his disappointment in the decisions. “I already went through $20 of printing to print a required lab manual. I wasn’t happy when I found out I had to pay for printing.” He continued, “I like the fact that laundry is free, but I think the student body should have been consulted in this decision process.”

In addition to theses, lengthy nursing assignments, and lab materials, students are likely to be affected across all disciplines. Multiple professors maintain strict laptop-free classrooms and require students to print all reading material, even if it could be easily accessed on the web. Certain professors have asserted that this not only increases focus during class but that reading paper sources with a pen in hand is more beneficial for reading comprehension.

The College has not issued any formal statement about the new pay-to-print policy. When asked to elaborate on the college’s decision-making process regarding printing, Chief of Staff Neil Levesque did not return The Hilltopper’s request for comment.

Outside of the academic sphere, there are various clubs and organizations on campus that rely heavily on the old free printing system.

When asked for a comment, members of the debate team said that instead of paying for printing through the college, they would be using their own private printer in the debate office. Presumably, the club has decided that is a more cost-effective approach than using the print anywhere system. Cassy Moran ‘19, a member of the debate team, said, “As a member of debate team, I need to print a lot of materials that can be very expensive throughout the year. Last year I had to refill my card every week or so. If I were to use the public printers, it would be very difficult to balance between that and printing all of my classwork.” In addition to the debate team, the Model UN Club also typically prints large documents that they need to prepare for when they compete at Harvard Model United Nations.

Though it is clear that the printing restrictions have received overwhelmingly negative feedback, there are potential benefits, such as decreased paper use. However, the Green Team did not answer when asked about the positive environmental impact of the new policy.

The College has not addressed the changes and failed to respond to The Hilltopper’s repeated request for insight into the decision. 

There have also been cuts to work-study budgets in various departments on campus, such as the Athletics Department. At a recent meeting in the Athletic Department, Neil Duval explained to student workers that although a student might be allotted $1,000 in work-study money, each department is only allowed to spend a certain amount on work-study students. So in reality, if a student has $1,000, they may only be allowed to earn half of this amount within the department. Duval emphasized that although this new regulation has been put in place, the department would do its best to ensure that all students would be able to earn their full work-study amount, even if this meant spreading students out with multiple campus jobs.

Budget cuts have impacted the library as well. The Geisel Library was previously open weekdays until 2 a.m. but is now only open until midnight during the week. Geisel librarian Martha Dickerson confirmed that these cuts to library hours of operation were due to campus-wide budget cuts. While the library and other campus facilities did send out emails containing hours of operation, there was no formal email sent explaining why hours had been cut.

Students have already felt the pressure of shorter hours. Liam O’Rourke ‘19 said, “The first time that I heard of the library’s new hours was last night at 11:45 right before the library closed. While there are other options on campus, the library is the most resourceful place to complete work. It doesn’t make sense that these hours are limited.”

O’Rourke is not the only student frustrated by the change in the library’s hours. Others, like Elise Bouchard ‘19, say they have been repeatedly kicked out of the library at closing. “While I understand that closing the library at midnight is due to budget cuts, it is a serious restraint that negatively impacts students,” she said. Bouchard went on to emphasize the negative impact the budget cuts are having on students’ ability to learn. “It is simply a decision which limits students and does not facilitate a studying environment consistent with the course load which we receive.”

Jesse McCartney Concert Met with Mixed Feelings

The end of the academic year here at Saint Anselm is traditionally marked by the annual Spring Weekend celebration, which features a variety of events that usually include a concert hosted by the Campus Activities Board. CAB recently announced that the artist for this year’s Spring Weekend Concert is Jesse McCartney, a singer-songwriter who rose to stardom in the early 2000s.

McCartney gained popularity in the early 2000s. In 2003, he released his first solo album which featured one of his most popular songs to date, “Beautiful Soul.” His career as a teen heartthrob in the 2000s further increased with his guest appearances on Disney Channel shows such as Suite Life of Zack & Cody as well as Hannah Montana. This past March, McCartney released a new single, “Better With You,” which will also appear on his upcoming album.

The announcement of Jesse McCartney as the Spring Weekend artist was met with mixed reactions from the student body. Freshman Jordan Cook is looking forward to the concert. “I’ve heard a few of his songs when I was younger. He wasn’t my favorite artist but had some hits that I definitely didn’t mind listening to on the radio. I was a little bit surprised [when they announced Jesse as the artist] but a concert is a concert so I can’t complain with it. I do think it would be a great idea to give students more say in who we choose, like in an election.”

Sophomore Emily Provencher agreed about the need to involve students in the process. “I’d definitely like to see more input from the student body,” she said, “but I understand that this can be difficult when you can’t always disclose all the information. I enjoy a great throwback like Jesse, but I’m not sure I’d choose for it to be my whole concert experience.”

Sophomore Emerald Shea was not impressed by the artist selection for Spring Weekend. “At first when I heard that Jesse would be the artist, I thought it was a joke. Then I realized it was actually going to happen.” Emerald does not plan to attend the concert, citing different taste in music as her reason for skipping out. “I’d love to see different, more popular artists coming to our college, but understand that this isn’t always possible due to budgeting and school size.”

Other students, like senior Sam Brandeis, are planning to go to the concert even though they are not pleased with the artist. Sam has never been a die-hard fan of McCartney, but he plans to attend the concert regardless of who performs. “My first reaction to hearing Jesse McCartney was the Spring Weekend Artist was ‘I hope he shows up,’” Sam said, referencing the infamous T-Pain cancellation in 2016. “I have yet to be able to see an artist perform at spring weekend, and I hope McCartney is the exception. I honestly have nothing better to do.” Like his fellow students, he wishes that student input would be taken into account more but understood that “too many suggestions create too much havoc.”

Ryan Whalen, who is currently studying abroad and won’t be at the concert had a hard time masking his displeasure with the artist selection. “My first reaction was pure joy. I was and still am so happy I am not missing out on a real spring concert.” He went on to elaborate, “I am paying to come to the school and would like to have a say or vote on the artist.” Ryan says that he has brought this complaint up before and that he has been told to join CAB. “My reply is: I did join CAB for two and a half semesters and it was as though I had no voice,” he continued. Whalen went on to explain that he felt as though he never experienced a Spring Concert at Saint Anselm, “T pain cancels, Clean Bandit’s performance was nothing more than hip swinging, and now Jessie?”

Junior Alec Flynn posted this image in the SAC 2019 Class Facebook group to protest McCartney’s concert.

Some students took to social media to express their distaste with the announcement of McCartney as the headliner for Spring Weekend. Junior Alec Flynn was one of these students, posting in the Class of 2019 Facebook group that he would be boycotting the concert and encouraged other frustrated students to do the same. “I’m abhorred,” Alec said when asked what he thought of McCartney being hired as the concert artist. When asked if he was a fan of McCartney growing up, Flynn stated, “I liked the power rangers, too, but you don’t see me walking around campus in a red jumpsuit.” Alec Flynn, like other students, expressed a desire to see more input from students in the process but admits that this would be a difficult process, “Once you do that then there are hoops to jump through. CAB would say ‘okay here is who we can afford’ then when there’s a clear front-runner or someone not half-bad they would say ‘oh well his/her music isn’t very appropriate or Anselmian’ or whatever. Bottom line is this school has messed up a spring concert for 3 years in a row now, and there seems to be no one really calling them out for it.”

Abbie Reynolds, the student in charge of the Campus Activities Board, was transparent about the process for selecting a spring artist. “CAB works with a middle agent that gives us a list of artists that are within our budget, and then we are able to take a look at the list and decide on a couple of different artists. Our middle agent will go back and see if any artists are interested in us!” She explained that there are many factors that need to be taken into account when searching for artists, such as cost and finding artists willing to perform “a clean set that will respect our Benedictine and Catholic values.”

As for the planning process, there is a Spring Weekend Committee that consists of smaller sub-committees that handle specific areas of making the whole weekend of events possible. “The spring weekend committee as a whole is for anyone that wants to be involved in planning spring weekend.” When asked about input, Reynolds explained that due to contract negotiations, it is not possible for CAB to release information prior to the signing of the contract. However, all students are welcome to attend CAB meetings to voice their opinion.

“Our meetings are always open to the whole student body and we always want to hear student input! We always have members in CAB listening to what they hear in Dav or from their friends to get a gauge of what students want,” Reynolds said.

CAB relies entirely on student volunteers for all of the events they host on campus. CAB meetings are usually held on Wednesday nights and are open for all students to attend.

In addition to the Spring Weekend Concert, on April 26 CAB will be hosting a “Found Footage Festival,” which is a comedy show built off of old VHS tapes found at yard sales and thrift stores. “It’s like America’s Funniest Home Videos, but better!” Reynolds explained. In addition to this, there will be Paint Dance Party hosted by CAB and SGA on Saturday, April 28, the night after Jesse’s concert.

Cover image from Fairmont State University.