As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we can be especially thankful for the acts of hope and inspiration that we continue to witness in our Alfred University community.
Last week, I was contacted by Ramin Faraji Fijani, a graduate student in engineering from Iran. He was going to a conference in Pittsburgh and asked if he could take a message with him from Alfred University to the Tree of Life synagogue congregation where 11 people were killed in a senseless act of violence on October 27.
Our University community mourned together after the tragedy through a service organized by two of our students, Megan Mendelson ’17, MSED ’20 and Allison Shulman ’20. Many of those in attendance had written messages of condolence to be conveyed to Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.
Ramin’s request was especially poignant. As an Iranian, whose country has long been in conflict with Israel, Ramin could not have been expected to make a special pilgrimage to the Tree of Life synagogue. He chose to do that, and in doing so, showed that he, like others, is choosing hope over discord and peace over conflict. We are so proud and grateful to have him as an ambassador of our University.
We are proud and grateful, too, of our Alfred University students, faculty, and staff for their efforts to raise money for the Navajo Water Project, which will give a Navajo community access to clean water through raising funds to install cisterns, pumps, and plumbing in homes.
Our community undertook a similar project two years ago when they raised funds to construct a well in Pignon, Haiti. Not only did they raise the money, but students and faculty spent their spring break in Haiti helping to install the well.
You might say many people in our community are putting their heart and “sole” into the new effort. Under the leadership of Michele Hluchy, professor of environmental studies, our students, staff, and faculty are raising money for the Navajo Water Project by collecting shoes. Shoes? Yes. If organizers can collect 2,500 pairs of gently-used shoes, they earn $1,000 for their project, and people in less-developed countries like Honduras and Haiti will gain functional footwear.
They are also doing a “semi-polar” plunge, presumably so-named because Foster Lake is only frigid, not frozen yet, on Sunday, November 18. Some of us–including yours truly–will immerse ourselves in Foster Lake in return for donations to the Navajo Water Project.
From individual gestures, like personally taking the thoughts of our community to the Tree of Life synagogue, to broader efforts that lead to shoes for less-advantaged people and clean, safe water for an area that does not have access to it, Alfred University students, staff, and faculty show their commitment to our University’s values of inclusivity, community, and social justice.
Fiat the giving of thanks for such acts of inspiration and hope (and Fiat warmer weather this Sunday)!