Lack of diversity halts religious acceptance

Elizabeth Bacharach

Opinons Editor

Never once in my life have I considered myself a minority. As I grew up in a predominantly Jewish community I felt one of many, attending multiple bar and bat mitzvahs and High Holy Day services with friends, and found Shabbas dinners to be social events rather than traditional celebrations. But upon arriving on campus, my feelings of majority were quickly flipped upside down to minority.

I come from a strong Jewish family propelled by a profound cultural honor and tie. My grandparents, Nazi Germany escapees, pride themselves on their religion and support their grandchildren in anything we pursue. As the first grandchild to not attend a dominantly Jewish school, I was questioned about the acceptance and understanding of Judiasm at what is known as a conservative university with a large percentage of Christian students. Within my first weeks on campus, I sent my grandparents a picture of the library and immediately received a response saying, “Is that the chapel?!” As an adamant lover of our school, even from the start, I rebuked my elders’ question with a solid “NO!” How could they be so ignorant to think I would choose a school that neglects diversity and acceptance?

The reality, though, is that I do attend a school that has quite some difficulty with such acceptance. As I spend more and more time on campus, I begin to notice more of the diversity discrepancies we have here on campus. One day at lunch I was asked—for the first time in my life—what it was like to be a Jew. The question was far from rude, yet far from politically correct. I appreciated my peer’s inquiry, but at the same time I did not appreciate the fact that my differences were highlighted. This situation was not the first, nor will it be the last, of such that I will experience here at school.

The problem we face is not the issue of acceptance but rather the issue of understanding. Despite our reputation as a prestigious liberal arts university, we fall deeply from such title in consideration of diversity. I received an astonishing email from Nina Banks this past week that informed recipients that the average number of black students who are U.S. citizens and have attended the University in the last five years is only 28 per entering class (forming just three percent of the student body). Now, I cannot stand here and preach about the lack of diversity on the African-American front, but I can tell you as a religious minority, I do recognize the lack of variety we have on campus.

This issue would not be such a problem if lines were not formed between a variety of students, as in the case of my lunch situation. Bright barriers were created just due to my religion, one of a minority. I truly believe that our university needs to amp up its game and be more welcoming and accepting of varied applicants because the truth is, the “Bucknell Bubble” we have formed is not the real world, situational and based on population. I do admit, however, that I have faith that our university is trying to diversify … but maybe a little push and shove like such an article can only improve our barren diversity situations.

Being a minority on campus has not, and will not, change my love for our school or my Jewish pride. But it will make me less open about my religious stance due to fear of questioning and possible lack of acceptance.

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