Respecting, supporting, and caring for each other during the Middle East crisis

A message to the Saint Mary's Community

by Brother Thomas Jones, FSC, Interim President | November 3, 2023

Speaking with a Jewish student this week, I became aware of the discomfort some students, staff, and faculty with Jewish heritage and backgrounds in our Saint Mary’s College community feel when they hear comments that marginalize and separate them from others on campus. Similarly, Palestinian members of our society and in our own SMC community recently have experienced increased bigotry and marginalization. 

The events of October 7 have set off unprecedented animosity and threats of physical violence to Jewish, Palestinian, and Arab individuals and communities and have been the source of grave concern throughout our country and on college campuses in every state. Those events also have caused considerable distress for our students, staff, and faculty.

Offhanded and hurtful comments that stereotype or attack our Jewish or Palestinian communities are antithetical to the values that undergird the entire educational activity at Saint Mary’s College. Comments may attack the perceived influence that the Jewish population has on American politics, for example, diminish the importance of the Holocaust, call for generalized retribution against an entire local or international community, or identify a terrorist faction of a group with the whole group. 

Fortunately, these incidents that have attempted to marginalize some in our community have been few at our campus compared to the many examples of persons supporting and actively encouraging diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Nevertheless, any attempt to diminish the respect we give any member or group of members of our Saint Mary’s College community has the effect of damaging all of us. Ours is a college that supports the dignity of the human person and the collective responsibility we have to build up and strengthen the society in which we live, and we must continue to uphold those values.   

In this time when we are confronted daily with the horrors of violence, terrorism, and war, I call upon all of us in the Saint Mary’s community to exhibit renewed sensitivity, understanding, and compassion in our interactions with each other. Yes, because of what we are experiencing in the world around us, we are more sensitive to insults and personal attacks. Because we commit ourselves to a more comprehensive level of justice that underlies our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging than other institutions may exhibit, we sometimes need to listen to others before we speak, encourage those who feel shut out to express their views, and demonstrate that we are confident enough in ourselves that we can allow for a variety of opinions to be expressed without becoming defensive and offending others.

I offer these comments in the context of an immense amount of pride in the faculty, staff, and students at Saint Mary’s College. Last week I attended an impressive conversation in the Soda Center about the turmoil and human suffering emanating from the war in the Middle East. This conversation was led by students who are passionate about engaging all of us in conversations that promote healing and peace. 

Students who attended listened to each other, spoke respectfully, and engaged thoughtfully, speaking from their hearts from various vantage points. This gathering reflected the best of who we are and demonstrated in a concrete way how people with differences can come together to form bonds of respect and mutual understanding.

I appreciated the message sent to our community this week from our Student Life leadership listing resources available on campus for managing stress, communicating our needs, and caring for ourselves and others in these confusing times. Our presence to each other and our commitment to providing resources that relieve stress and promote health are essential to what it means to belong to the Saint Mary’s College community.  

As we approach Thanksgiving, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, and the Christian feast of Christmas, let us renew our resolve to care for and support each other in ways that build and sustain our community. The divisions that cause discomfort and lead to separation can only disappear if each of us commits ourselves to respecting each other and working together for the well-being of our Saint Mary’s College community.


Brother Thomas Jones, FSC

Interim President