Resolution for a New Decade

A photo of a smiling Laura Gardner wearing a blue shirt and matching necklace.
Mike Lovett
Laura Gardner, P’12

At the entrance to my office in Gryzmish, a small blue and white sign reads “This is our house. #YouAreWelcomeHere.” To be honest, I usually take messages like these with a grain of salt. Though they are always well-intentioned, they often belie the hard work of building community. “Community” means different things to different people. But even if we disagree over its definition or its parameters (who’s in, who’s not), we know it when we feel it. Comfort. Inclusion. Acceptance.

Community is like home, as the sign implies. But, unlike home, you don’t get to leave the dishes in the sink for days or forget to water the plants. Community takes continual nourishment and renewal. “Comfort” shouldn’t be confused with “comfortable.”

As the 2010s drew to a close (or, more accurately, stomped to a close in a national tantrum fueled by division and rancor), I found myself thinking about stories of community building. Some found their way into this magazine — for instance, our story about Israeli-Palestinian entrepreneurship in the Fall 2017 issue (“When All Else Fails, Try Entrepreneurship”) and our Summer 2016 feature about the occupation of Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center by students demanding greater inclusion and representation (“Voices of #FordHall2015”).

Other stories seeped into my consciousness in ways I didn’t foresee. When my beloved husband died and so many Brandeisians came to help me celebrate his life at a memorial service, I understood what I had taken for granted: I was part of a deeply generous and compassionate community.

This issue finds its way to you on the cusp of a new decade that will witness, I hope, the triumph of community over division. Two stories focus on safeguarding threatened communities. “Jousting With the Alt-Right” looks at assistant professor of English Dorothy Kim’s bold effort to confront the extreme right’s hijacking of medieval history. She is also spearheading a campaign to make medieval studies more inclusive and welcoming. At some personal risk, Kim wants to bring a modern sense of community to a historically insular field.

“Healing Roots” explores how the Jewish community is rebuilding after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre, a renewal that Jeff Finkelstein, MA’93, and Sam Schachner ’93 are helping to lead. In the tragedy’s aftermath, they learned an important truth about fellowship. Though hatred of Jews was the murderer’s cause, the shooting only strengthened their Jewish identity, and brought them and many other Jews closer to Christian and Muslim faith communities.

As Brandeisians demonstrate in their personal and professional lives, in these stories and countless others, the values of inclusivity and welcome will only strengthen community, never threaten it, as haters would have us believe.

My wish for all of us in this new decade is a deep well of verve and compassion, and a dedication to creating and protecting communities that proclaim, “This is our house. You are welcome here. Get ready to work hard.”


Laura Gardner, P’12