Rider celebrates diversity with Unity Day discussion

Award-winning journalist David Kushner visited Rider on Oct. 17 to discuss topics such as genocide.

By Megan Raab

In celebration of Unity Day, Rider presented “From the Holocaust to Today,” a discussion about discrimination, marginalization and genocide. The shared read event focused on topics featured in the 2018 shared read, “How Does it Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America” by Moustafa Bayoumi. 

The evening included a speech by award-winning journalist and author David Kushner and a discussion panel featuring sophomore human resources major Safiyya Baksh, junior human resources management Neria Weiss, sophomore psychology major Jamie Silfen, psychology professor Nadia Ansary, Marvin Goldstein, the associate director of the Koppelman Holocaust/Genocide Center and Rabbi Yitzchak Goldenberg from Young Israel of Lawrenceville. 

A video of Holocaust survivor Frank Lowy’s keynote address at the 2013 March of the Living Ceremony opened the discussion. 

In this video, Lowy discussed his life as a Holocaust survivor and how losing his father to the Holocaust impacted his life. 

Kushner worked very closely with Lowy for the past year putting together a movie based on his story.

 Kushner shared stories of his experience working with Lowy and how it shaped his views of discrimination, marginalization and genocide. 

Lowy was able to build a very successful life and career by founding the Westfield Corporation, an Australian “global developer and operator of flagship shopping destinations,” according to their website, and becoming one of Australia’s leading businessmen. However, the weight of his experiences and the question of what happened to his father were always present in his mind. 

 “Nobody knew why he was sick; no one could understand, but he knew in his heart that he had this unresolved story,” Kushner said. 

Other remarks were given by Pamela Pruitt, the director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, as well as the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, DonnaJean Fredeen.

Both shared their thoughts on what discrimination, marginalization and genocide meant to them and how they have affected their lives. 

According to Pruitt, the evening was intended to “open up a dialogue and conversation about how these ideas existed in the past, how they inform the present and what these ideas mean in the future.”

Fredeen acknowledged her own good fortune and stressed the impact of using her voice to advocate for others.

“It’s important to continue to read and understand and speak out about these issues,” Fredeen said. 

Following these speeches was a transition into the diversity panel moderated by senior finance major and Office of Multicultural Affairs student intern Drew Gandham. 

Gandham opened up a discussion through questions regarding diversity on campus and in society as a whole. There was also a large focus on prejudice, how and why it develops, what types of people can be prejudiced and how these prejudices can affect people. 

The panel insights compelled many audience members to share their own thoughts and experiences. 

Aileen Merino, sophomore political science major, responded to a question about the importance of maintaining the identity of minority groups while still treating them as equals. 

“Everyone likes to call us a melting pot and I completely disagree,” Merino said. “We are a salad bowl. We have a mixture of people on this campus, and it’s so beautiful seeing everyone’s different race, ethnicity and religion. We appreciate other cultures and that’s what makes us a great nation.” 

There was also a discussion about the impact of culture and the media in today’s global society, which is so highly centered on social media. 

Baksh shared her experiences witnessing how social media can create biases and prejudices against certain groups. 

“It can be very persuasive,” Baksh said. “And, sometimes, it takes one person to create a bad name for a whole group. That’s what being a minority feels like. You get ridiculed for something that one person does.” 

Following the panel, there was a heartfelt candle lighting ceremony, with students from the Black Student Union, the Muslim Student Association, Black Men Unified, Hillel, LOCKS, Rider Women United, Zeta Phi Beta and LASO representing the student body.

The “Power of Protest” exhibit is on display in the Moore Library until Nov. 16. 

 

Published in 10/24/18 edition.

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