A Passport to Diversity

Han Wang
The Bronfman Center on 10th Street, the heart of Jewish student life at NYU. The Center organised a trip to Israel for 25 student leaders in January, in an effort to facilitate a dialogue between individuals of different backgrounds.

Diversity at NYU comes from everywhere: it boasts the highest number of international students in the country, its student population represents all fifty states and many different ethnicities mingle on campus. However, The Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU wondered if the student leadership on campus is just as diverse.

A group of 25 students of both Jewish and non-Jewish faiths traveled to Israel, visiting locations such as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Palestine. While students were able to do some sightseeing, the ultimate goal of the trip was to foster a dialogue between student leaders of different ethnicities, faiths, backgrounds and political beliefs.

Global Leadership Associate Yana Yasevich thinks that while there is diversity in leadership on campus, more can be done to influence these groups to communicate more effectively with one another.

“NYU does a really great job in allowing students to build micro communities, but something that is lacking is the ability to bring all these micro communities together,” Yasevich said. “So this is a way for people to speak together more, for them to get to know each other, to find commonalities between them even if they on the outside may seem different.”

The group met with the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, Israeli author Etgar Keret and members of the Israeli consulate, along with leaders of community centers, journalists, leaders in LGBTQ communities and a Sudanese refugee. Yasevich planned this trip to show an Israel with an organic narrative and not in anyway prescribed.

“It was to bring this really, really diverse group of people to a new space and have them interact with the beautiful parts of it,” Yasevich said. “But also the really challenging and maybe negative parts associated with it and for them to be able to really build an educated and constructive personal perspective about it.”

CAS senior Tom Ishizuka, a supervisor with the Admissions Ambassadors program, was skeptical about the trip at first, but soon realized that it was a productive and educational opportunity.

“I had a really interesting conversation with a former baseball teammate of mine,” Ishizuka said, who played with the NYU Baseball Club. “He’s an international student from Japan, and he says that being on the baseball team is one of the best things he was able to do.”

Ishizuka said that before his teammate joined the team, a lot of his teammate’s communities — whether with the Japanese Students Association or his fellow students in Tandon — pigeonholed him in those communities.

CAS junior David Moed, a founder of the club Realize Israel, learned more about Christianity, something he would not have done if not for the trip.

”It was a very inclusive environment and encouraged asking questions, curiosity and that kind of thing,” Moed said. “For example, I’ve never been to the Mount of Beatitudes before so that was very interesting for me. I didn’t know what the Beatitudes were.”

With NYU’s diverse population, it comes as no surprise that there does not seem to be a lack of diversity in student leadership. The Bronfman Center, in bringing together student leaders, addressed the overarching issue — communication and connections between these communities.

Email Han Wang at [email protected]

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