Hillel members, Holocaust survivor find own ways to counter Spencer’s message
By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP
Members of the Jewish community worked to turn a potentially divisive moment into a peaceful message at Texas A&M last week.
Richard Spencer, a white nationalist that helped found the alt-right movement, spoke on the campus in College Station on Dec. 6. National headlines and coverage by network television stations focused on the loud protests inside and outside the Rudder Tower, where Spencer spoke to 400 people — many of whom were there to protest the white supremacist.
That didn’t tell the whole story.
There was a peaceful silent protest, which included many members of Hillel at Texas A&M, while there was an “Aggies United” event at Kyle Field that drew thousands of students and detracted from Spencer’s influence on campus.
“The response was outstanding,” said Daniel Rosenfield, executive vice president of the Texas A&M student government. “The message we were trying to get across was that everyone is united. We brought people from all lives together in Kyle Field, and that action sent a stronger message than Richard Spencer could send.”
Max Glauben, a Dallas resident who survived the Holocaust, was one of the speakers at “Aggies United,” and said it was important for him to share his message.
“Unity creates many things,” Glauben said. “And I hope we can have more upstanders than bystanders now. My speech was trying to prevent people from becoming bystanders. You don’t need to yell and shout; you simply need to do the right thing and not watch.
“We all bleed red, we’re all the same at our core,” Glauben added. “We may be different in what we think or how we look. But, when we are united and understand we are all people, that’s when we can avoid what’s happened in the past.”
Glauben’s message of unity was the polar opposite of Spencer, who told his audience, “At the end of the day America belongs to white men.”
Leaders at Texas A&M said Spencer had to be allowed to speak, since anyone can rent out a room on campus and exercise their First Amendment right. However, they made it clear he was not invited by representatives from the school and it was directly against Aggie values.
“I find the views of the organizer — and the speaker he is apparently sponsoring — abhorrent and profoundly antithetical to everything I believe,” Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young wrote in an email to campus. “In my judgment, those views simply have no place in civilized dialogue and conversation.”
Rabbi Matt Rosenberg, the executive director of Hillel and the campus rabbi at Texas A&M, said that was the correct response.
“I’m very happy with the response,” Rosenberg said. “The silent protest was very effective. So was the Aggies United event, which I think really gave students an option to be in a place of love, not hate. It’s heartwarming that the community came together.”
Rosenberg, who took part in the silent protest, said he was proud of the peaceful responses.
“This was a man who tries to bring out the worst in people,” Rosenberg said. “And by bringing out our best, that’s how we won. Whether it was protesting silently or dwarfing his event at Aggies United, I’m proud of the campus I’m a part of.”