Jewish Ghetto: A Reflection

Having spent the last three years studying genocide, I know far to well the tragedy of intolerance. Today, we spent a good part of the day in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. The cobblestone streets, that I have grown to be all too familiar with over the last two weeks, are missing a common element of daily life: cars. Why is this you may ask? It is because the Jewish Ghetto was constructed in such a way that even to this day it remains somewhat closed off from the rest of the world. Remains of the wall that was constructed to separate the Jews from the rest of Rome seem to narrow the streets as you walk by. Guards stand watch at each entrance to the Ghetto safeguarding the people from any discrimination that may still pursue. In front of doors, there are golden plates embedded in the ground in remembrance of families who had once lived there, but were stripped from their homes because of their ethnicity by the Germans in 1943.

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I like to think that most of us look back at WWII with regret. Even for those of us such as myself who weren’t even born yet, we regret that so many lives were needlessly ended. We capture the grief in movies such as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Schindler’s List. We encourage our young people to read books such as The Book Thief and Sarah’s Key. In high school, an entire unit was dedicated to teach as about WWII and The Holocaust. But why? Why is there so much out there telling us about the tragedies that occurred throughout the world in the mid 20th century? After WWII, there was a mantra that was adopted by the international community: Never Again. Never again shall we what? Never again shall we turn a blind eye to our fellow human being. Never again shall we ignore the warning signs when they are so visibly apparent. Never again shall we allow such a great tragedy plague our world.

Most people know about The Holocaust. It is common knowledge, something that everyone learns about in school, yet a lot of people aren’t aware of all the tragedies that have happened since the end of WWII in 1945 and those that are ongoing to this day. For example, the Rwandan genocide, The Ugandan genocide, The Cambodian genocide, just to name a few. Our world is wracked by chaos. You can’t turn on the news without being bombarded with crimes that have occurred against our fellow man. Terrorist Attacks. Hate Crimes. News that scares us and sometimes makes us wary to even check the news.

Today, I saw a wall that was constructed to KEEP PEOPLE IN. To segregate them from the rest of society. Although you feel regret for this wall ever having to exist, you feel joy for seeing it in shambles. The few remains exist as a remembrance of a great victory. You hear all this talk about walls in the states and it makes you wonder why we constantly let history repeat itself. We don’t need walls. What we need is tolerance, acceptance, knowledge, and more than anything love.

The thought of people who are different than us is scary. I know this from experience. The thing is, it is easy to be afraid of something that you know so little about firsthand. You can’t rely on what people tell you or what you hear in the media. You need to go out and find your own truth and I’m a firm believer that the only way to do that is to go out and experience that which you know nothing of. It is surprising how quickly you learn that people who you once thought were so different than yourself, are not that different at all.

So, I guess that what this post all comes down to and trust me I know it isn’t this simple. I’m not offering a solution or some enlightened plan on how to handle the troubles of our world, but also bear in mind that what we are dealing with aren’t aliens from space. They are human beings, same as you and I, and although I recognize that not all of you out there are Christian, if you believe that Jesus accepted the prostitute, the leper, those who others cast their eyes down upon, then you should do the same. If we recognize the tragedy of The Holocaust than perhaps we need to challenge ourselves to respond and learn from those who chose to act, despite widespread indifference. Keep yourself accountable for your fellow man.

For those of you who decided to stick with me through all that, here are some photos of our exploration through Rome. This one is a photo of the inside of St. Bernard’s which is right outside the Jewish Ghetto. IMG_5636.JPG

And this one is a photo of what remains of the wall today…. Unknown.jpeg

Blouin Global Scholars

I had always wanted to go Walsh University. My cousin and role model, Tricia, graduated form Walsh in 2003. I look back fondly on Lil Sibs weekend spent at Walsh University with Trish. This was my first exposure to the university that I would later come to call home. Who would have thought?

As time passed I was certain that Walsh was unattainable. Not because of my grades, but because of the hefty price tag. Consequently, I set my sights on Akron knowing full well that it was not where I wanted to end up. It was in December of my senior year that I got a scholarship offer from Walsh. Thee Vanesse scholarship was the answer to my prayers. I opened it while in the car with my family whilst on our way to our annual visit with my cousins at The Carlisle Inn. When I opened it my mind immediately went to those offers you get in the mail that are just too good to be true. I scoffed and showed it to my mom who immediately went wide-eyed. “Hannah… this isn’t a joke. You got a scholarship offer.” I burst into tears. Although many of you know I tend to be overly emotional, this moment is one that will always stay with me. It was the first time in years that I was willing to consider that my dream of being a Walsh student could come true.

Fast forward two months and I was completely convinced Walsh was for me. I scoured the website like crazy latching onto any piece of information that I could find. I was always interested in global learning, so I decided to venture the info page on the Walsh site. The Blouin Global Scholars tab popped up and guess what?!?!?! The due date for the application was only two days away. I rushed to my school computer lab, printed out the application, and finished it during study hall. In my haste of filling out the application I texted my best friend Helen and encouraged her to apply for the program as well. We both were accepted.

When I applied for The Blouin Global Scholar Program, I had no idea what it exactly involved. The word “global” in the title was good enough for me. When I went to interview for the program I learned that I would get the opportunity to travel to both Africa and Europe during my time at Walsh. Not only that, but I would get the chance to live on campus for my first two years in college as part of a living, learning community. I WAS OVER THE MOON, and equally as terrified. I never expected to live on campus. Although high school had prompted me to come partially out of myshell, I was still shy and reserved.

When I got the letter that I was accepted into the program I felt like I was walking on air. I had given up Facebook for lent, but I made an exception and voiced on Facebook how thrilled I was to get such an opportunity.

In December of 2015, right after the fall semester of my sophomore year, I was on a plane destined for Uganda. It was a life changing experience (but that is for another post) and now, one and a half years later I’m readily preparing for our trip to Rome to commence. Who knew I would get so many amazing opportunities? Travel is a chance to broaden your perspective and become more accepting of people and ways of life that are different from your own. My greatest thanks go out to the staff of Walsh University that have worked to made these great opportunities possible and I urge anyone who has a flicker of interest in travel to just do it. If nothing else, these great opportunities have taught me that experiences matter much more than any material good. Always choose adventure.

What amazing places have you visited? Leave a comment below! I would love to here about everyone’s adventures!