Speeches & Commentary

Welcome remarks to WashU Hillel and Jewish community

Remarks delivered at Bear Beginnings Shabbat Dinner, Friday, August 20, 2021, WashU Hillel

Thanks, Jackie, for your kind introduction, and welcome everyone to Hillel at Washington University.  Thank you for taking a break to join us on such a busy day.

I’m so happy to see the campus full of students and families after many months of distance.  Being here among you, meeting you and seeing at least part of your faces, it makes me excited for the year ahead.  While health and safety still remain top of mind, I can’t tell you how wonderful today feels.

As you might already know, here at WashU, we have a long history of incredibly robust and diverse religious and cultural communities on campus – Hillel being one of them.  We pride ourselves on being a place that is open and inclusive of a diversity of religious thought, beliefs, practices, and expressions.

With that, we also think it’s extremely important for our students, faculty, staff, and members of the wider community to have places where they can express their common identities with others who share similar practices and beliefs.  Hillel has been part of the fabric of Washington University in St. Louis for the past 75 years, fostering a vibrant, welcoming, and inclusive campus Jewish community.  

To that end, I want to encourage each of you to take advantage of Hillel’s many offerings and engage with the incredible leaders here who are committed to helping you thrive and flourish.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the struggle we are all living in the midst of right now.  The tragic earthquake in Haiti.  Unrest in Afghanistan.  These are just two examples of the moment. Sadly there are many, many more.  I want to recognize that this has been a particularly trying time for many members of our Jewish community, with ongoing violence and instability in the Middle East.  I have heard from some of you during the past months, expressing concern about hurtful rhetoric and behavior that you have personally witnessed or experienced, and I can’t tell you how deeply troubled I am by this.  I would like to reaffirm to you all right now that the university unequivocally stands against hate, racism, and discrimination.  Anti-Semitism has no place on our campus and the university stands in solidarity with our Jewish students, faculty, and staff in strongly rejecting hateful speech or actions in all their forms.  You have my word on that. 

I know this event is designated for you to get to know each other better, so I won’t take up any more of this important time.  Thank you again for coming, and welcome again to WashU.