“There is always evil going on in our society. Even when you think everything is fine, nothing can be fine,” said Max Kurzweil ‘27, when reflecting on his recent trip to D.C..
On Sunday, Sept. 3, around fifty Muhlenberg students as well as faculty from Hillel, the Office of Multicultural Life and Housing & Residence Life boarded a bus for Washington, D.C. to visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. So why did students apply to this trip, wake up at 6:00 a.m. and brave the expected 96 degrees Fahrenheit to travel for over three hours to Washington?
For some, it remained a personal choice that stemmed from their own background and history. “It was personally important to me because I am Jewish and wanted to experience the Holocaust Museum firsthand and to have my own experience and knowledge of it,” Kurzweil shared.
This effort to look back upon personal backgrounds and faiths was a common thread amongst many of the students, but not all of them.
“The trip was important for me to attend because it is history that needs to be taught to everybody,” explained Johnny Rappoccio ‘27, going further to mention that “a lot of this history is trying to be erased so it’s everyone’s job to educate themselves on our history and other countries’ histories.”
“A lot of this history is trying to be erased so it’s everyone’s job to educate themselves on our history.”Johnny Rappoccio ’27
The exhibits themselves provided multiple opportunities for museum-goers to further educate themselves. Whether it was newsreel footage, recreated physical structures or multiple pictures and graphics curated across the exhibits, the displays allowed students to truly immerse themselves and learn more about periods of history that are often relegated to a limited number of pages on our high school history textbooks.
“When we first entered the Holocaust Museum, I was instantly pulled in as my eyes were attached to the pictures and readings around me,” mentioned Rappoccio. “The opening picture you see when you walk out of the elevator is so eerie and gut-wrenching that you need to let your mind rest a little before informing yourself on as much as you can.“
Meanwhile, the information that caught Kurzweil’s attention the most was found at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Kurzweil learned that “in 1969 when Apollo 11 took off to the moon… the US spent so much money on that while not focusing on African Americans that were in poverty during this time…”
Others, such as Asher Bejar ‘26, made it a point to take advantage of the chance to educate himself: “When I first heard about this trip, I knew I wanted to go. Learning is a passion of mine, and to learn about the history of two very important groups of people in our nation was an opportunity I couldn’t miss,” said Bejar.
Robin Riley-Casey, the director of the Office of Multicultural Life on campus, mentioned when sitting down for an interview that “The work for inclusion is something that you need to be vigilant for; you really need to focus on and be intentional about paying attention to the way the world operates.”
“The work for inclusion is something that you need to be vigilant for, you really need to focus on, you really need to be intentional about paying attention to the way the world operates.”Director of the Office of Multicultural Life Robin Riley-Casey
“I have always felt a disconnect between Black and Jewish people. Even though the oppression that both groups have faced are completely different, I think in order to have a deeper understanding of one another it is important that we learn from both traumas in order to not repeat them,” said Josephine Glass ‘27, alluding to yet another crucial reason behind the trip.
Ira Blum ‘10, the director of The Leffell Center for Jewish Life, shared why he chose to attend the trip beyond his role as an organizer, saying, “the spirit of the student life experience here [is] one of building relationships and reaching across differences, getting outside of your own comfort zone and your bubble.”
In a time where it is becoming increasingly harder for us to get past our differences and disconnects, this trip reminded many students of the importance of having those difficult conversations.