Yousef Bashir and his father
Yousef Bashir and his father

Considering 'Forward, Yousef'

I was thinking recently about Brandeis’ non-Western requirement when I was a student there and how the class I took on the anthropology of developing countries forced me to consider perspectives I hadn’t previously encountered. “Forward, Yousef,” the Brief Perspective essay in the Fall issue, had a similar impact on me.

As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors on my father’s side and the great-granddaughter of Russian Jews who fled the Cossacks on my mother’s side, the importance of Israel’s continued strength doesn’t need to be impressed upon me. But I intentionally seek out information about injustices in the occupied areas, which appall me.

I’m embarrassed to say that “Forward, Yousef” was the first firsthand account by someone injured in Gaza by Israeli soldiers that I’ve read. It brought me to tears. I’m so thankful that the generally pro-Israel readers of Brandeis Magazine — perhaps who, like me, have to work harder to find perspectives that counter what they were taught to believe — have been exposed to this important story.

I was impressed by Yousef’s father’s peaceful resistance, even in the face of violence happening in his own home, even when his son was nearly paralyzed. I’m grateful that Yousef is using his experience to unite people of different backgrounds, not divide us. Keep up the horizon-expanding work.

Meredith Bodgas ’04
Bellmore, New York

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Thank you for “Forward, Yousef,” a story of grace, dignity and courage.

I plan to use it in my next forgiveness seminar. I’ll encourage the attendees to plumb the story’s depths. We’ll consider the process of developing a strong, self-respecting forgiveness attitude; examine the social psychological factors that made the home-invading soldiers’ behavior possible; explore the father’s courageous refusal to accept the humility of a prisoner’s role, knowing that his personal power for good could evoke anger, even a bullet in his son’s spine; and compare the individual goodness in the treatment by the Israeli doctors to the social ill of domination and destruction.

So much about forgiveness from both an individual and a social perspective — in just two pages. I owe my deepest appreciation.

Mona Gustafson Affinito, P’80
Excelsior, Minnesota

Affinito, a psychologist, is the author of “When to Forgive” and “Forgiving One Page at a Time.”

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As an academic and the proud parent of a child who sustained an injury during his service in the Israel Defense Forces, I was disappointed to read a partial and misleading accounting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Brandeis Magazine. 

With antisemitism growing on college campuses, such a one-sided article from Brandeis, a university founded in response to the antisemitism of the last century, is an insult to those of us who protested the U.N.’s anti-Israeli policies and still protest the one-sided media perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

From what my son has said about his service — much of which was in the West Bank — as well as the dozen or so books I’ve read on the conflict, the IDF most likely had a reason to be in or near Yousef Bashir’s home. History has proven the combined intelligence of the IDF and Mossad to be accurate an extremely high percentage of time.

Bashir’s article perpetuates the myth of the IDF as indiscriminately violent, a myth that has caused threats and harassment to be directed at Jewish students on campuses across the U.S. This myth paints a very different picture than the reality of life for the IDF.

What is impressive about Bashir is that he did not succumb to the hatred taught in Palestinian schools, and promoted by their media and elected officials. That would have been a story worth telling.

Donna Feldman ’76
Beechwood, Ohio

Yousef Bashir, Heller MA’16, responds: “In addition to my father, my mother and the rest of my family, three United Nations officers witnessed the shooting and corroborated my story. In my Brief Perspective essay, as well as in my book [“The Words of My Father”], I describe how I was treated at an Israeli hospital and how that helped transform me as a person. One Israeli shot me, but many Israelis saved my life. Also, I was not taught hatred in my school, nor did my father, a lifelong educator, teach hatred. That is the point of my book — and my essay.”

Falling with Eleanor

Driving Mrs. Roosevelt,” the charming Turning Points essay [Fall issue] by Allen Secher ’56, reminded me of the day in 1960 when I also had contact with Eleanor Roosevelt at Brandeis. On a snowy day, we were both sliding our way toward the door of Rabb Hall when we slipped — simultaneously — on the ice and knocked each other down. She and I struggled to help each other up, laughing as we did so and brushing snow off each other. A blessed accident. A lovely memory.

Merrill Joan Gerber, MA’81
Sierra Madre, California

Humanitarian concerns in China

I read with interest the Fall issue feature about Brandeis International Business School, “Troubleshooting Globalization,” which discusses the university’s plan to gain a larger presence in China.

It’s all well and good that students are coming to Brandeis from China — they get introduced to a wider perspective, including views on social activism, than they’ve received at home. And I can understand Brandeis’ wish to create more support for these students when they return to China.

I’m concerned, however, that the article didn’t mention human rights. China has been committing genocide in Tibet since 1949-50, when it invaded that country with no provocation. It has destroyed hundreds and hundreds of monasteries, and continues to arrest and torture those openly practicing Buddhism or celebrating the Dalai Lama.

Moreover, since 2014 China has been attacking the Uyghur community in the Xinjiang region, establishing essentially a police state and putting perhaps as many as a million Uyghurs into detention camps.

Brandeis was founded on the premise that all of us, regardless of our religious affiliation or practices, are equally entitled to live in peace and do the best we can with our lives.

I urge President Ron Liebowitz to bring up civil and human rights issues in China. Speak of them on campus, and make them an issue as Brandeis attempts to expand ties in China, including with potential donors and alumni.

Sara Sunstein ’72
Richmond, California

A fine find

I wish to commend Joseph Dorman on his fine Arts and Culture story [Fall issue] on “Voices From the Warsaw Ghetto,” edited by David Roskies ’69, MA’71, PhD’75. I use the documentary “Who Will Write Our History?” when I discuss the Oyneg Shabes writers in the Holocaust course I teach at a Catholic school. Mr. Dorman’s well-written piece encouraged me to order Mr. Roskies’ book and refer my students to Dorman’s review.

Barbara Markham
Padua Academy
Wilmington, Delaware