Over the February break, members of Brandeis Bridges traveled to Chicago for a week of sightseeing, open dialogue and bonding.
The Brandeis Bridges Club is a group on campus dedicated to creating dialogue between the Jewish and Black communities. Their mission, as stated on their webpage, is to “create a safe space where members of the Jewish and Black community can speak freely about racial and religious relations at Brandeis, in their community, and beyond.”
Two Bridges Fellows, R Matthews ’19 and Lanthara Langlois ’21, attended the trip. Matthews, a computer science and African and Afro-American Studies (AAAS) double major, told The Brandeis Hoot that Bridges participated in tours and sightseeing around Chicago. “I had a great time getting closer with the cohort as we explored the city together… We also spent time in Bronzeville, a historical Black neighborhood in Chicago which was really exciting for me to see some of the places where some of Black America’s greats lived. We drove by Muhammad Ali’s house, The Obamas’ house, and Louis Farrakhan’s house all within a 4 minute drive of each other,” wrote Matthews.
Langlois, an intended HSSP major and Renaissance and Medieval Studies minor, said her favorite part about the trip was visiting the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Illinois Holocaust Museum, where all of the fellows learned new things and could discuss them. “Those two museums allowed each and every one of us to… [have] dialogue with each other after about how it made us feel,” said Langlois. Each night of the trip, the Fellows would have a debrief where they spoke about the day’s activities and reflected upon them.
Matthews also noted that visiting the two museums were a memorable highlight of the trip for him. “I think the two most powerful visits for me were the Holocaust Museum and the DuSable Museum. Just learning about both communities’ respective traumas was really powerful and emotional,” wrote Matthews to The Hoot.
Matthews also talked about his exposure to Jewish communities during the trip to Chicago. “Another really cool experience I had was attending Orthodox Jewish services for the first time. That was a new experience for me, especially growing up in a predominantly Christian environment. We also had Shabbat dinner at various community members’ houses, which was great!”
Aside from appreciating Chicago’s architecture, Matthews also noted that downtown Chicago is home to “some really beautiful buildings, many of which were used in famous movies.” They also visited famous tourist sites like the Cloud Gate public sculpture by artist Sir Anish Kapoor.
Langlois said that another great part of the trip was becoming closer with the other fellows. “…I got closer to people I would’ve never expected to, which was amazing because I thought I had a lot of friends, but I met even more people and it was just amazing.”
For Matthews, Brandeis Bridges serves as a learning experience. “To me, Brandeis Bridges means learning more about the Jewish community both at Brandeis and at large, while also learning about the Black community to which I’m personally a part of,” Matthews wrote.
Langlois said that being a Brandeis Bridges Fellow allows her to connect with more students on campus. “I can connect to students that I wouldn’t be able to connect to on a more personal level.” Langlois said that she has met many current and past fellows. “…It’s a good way to make connections to people … who you wouldn’t be friends with if it wasn’t a setting like [Brandeis Bridges], but this allows them to become like your second family, in a sense.”
“I think having Brandeis Bridges is important because it’s legit building a bridge between black and Jewish people, because blacks are not really represented in this campus and the Jewish population is like the most populated and I feel like to bridge the gap is Brandeis Bridges,” said Langlois.
Matthews wrote that future Brandeis Bridges events will include talking about their experiences during the trip and more. The Brandeis Bridges Club Facebook page and listserv are a great way for interested students to learn more about the program and discover the ways that the Black and Jewish communities can learn and bond together.