Partial Transcript: "There was no Jewish life at Davidson. I had a very difficult college experience because of being Jewish. When I went to Davidson, I felt incredibly Jewish. It was a place that was very isolating, and, in my opinion, there wasn't Jewish Life. The college chaplain was very good to try to talk to Jewish students. There were maybe 12 to 15 openly Jewish students when i was there. It was something that some people I knew hid, which is crazy to thing about. I started college in '94, and I graduated in '98. This was not normal. It was very strange coming from where I came from, which like I said, was a very diverse place."
Subjects: College chaplain; Jewish life; Jewish student; isolation
Partial Transcript: Referring to a town hall on religious diversity at Davidson: "People asked me crazy questions. Crazy! Totally crazy questions just in that respect. And my, my roommate was a-- is an Episcopal. She came from the kind of background where you'd think she would have kind of spoken for the students that were for the crosses. But she had-- she stayed up all night the night before reading her Bible, and she defended me with the Bible. She found a passage that supported why this type of evangelism shouldn't be going on, and I was floored by that. One of the greatest moments of friendship I've ever experienced."
"People kept saying to me, "you chose us," and my defense to it was, "No, you chose me." I was heavily recruited. I "upped" the school’s numbers in everything. I was a very good student; I have a PhD from Harvard now. I could have gone elsewhere to college, but I was recruited to go to Davidson. "
Keywords: Chambers; Christian tradition; Davidsonian; Dr. Maiz-Peña; Easter crosses; Fellowship of Christian Athletes; Fundamentalist; Libertas; Minority affairs; Presbyterian College; antisemitism; college holidays; evangelicals; religious diversity; religious forum
Partial Transcript: "I guess I shouldn't keep harping on this, but you don't have to make it work. which is something I think I thought: I had to make it work. And I'm grateful that I did for the academics that I got, but for the social aspect of it, find your people and stick to your people, and I think that will help a lot."
Keywords: community support; resources
Cathy Xu: Okay, so there are some formalities I have to go through just to makesure that everyone knows like anyone else watching the interview later on can understand the information. Though, the name of the interviewer is Sara-- Taylor Drake and Cathy Xu and the name of the narrator is Sara Gebhardt.
The location of the interview is Davidson, North Carolina and Washington, D.C., correct?
Sara Gebhardt: Correct.
CX: And the date is April 1st, 2019. The purpose of the interview is to documenthistory of Jewish experiences at Davidson College, and so I'm going to have to ask you for oral consent because you're... the recording of your interview will be made available and a transcription will be added to the Davidson College archives. These materials will be made available for research by scholars for scholarly publications and other related purposes consistent with Davidson College's mission and regulated according to any restrictions placed on their use by the interviewee or interviewer, and so before it goes in the archives and is made [available] to the public, we were just wondering if you would consent to-- 00:01:00
SG: I, yes, I give my consent.
Taylor Drake and CX: Perfect, thank you.
CX: So just to start off, do you mind telling us a little about your relationship with Judaism before you arrived at Davidson?
SG: Sure, I grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in Bethesda, Maryland, where I have a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. And the reason I mentioned where I grew up is because this was very common. Many of my friends were of mixed religious backgrounds with their parents. Judaism, according to the religion, flows through the mother. So, I had grown up, essentially, as a Jewish child with a Catholic father, which was its own thing. But that was very normal for most of my friends.00:02:00
I was very close with my maternal grandparents, who were first-generationimmigrants. Many of their family members were killed in the Holocaust, and, and so I carried that, that aspect of the religion, which is more cultural than religious I would say, throughout my entire life before Davidson. So, I, I'm you know, I consider myself Jewish upon going to Davidson. But I probably consider myself a little less religious than you know, a hard core, a serious religious person because of my parents having different religions. But I was super close with my grandparents and my great aunts and uncles, all of whom had grown up in Orthodox Jewish households in New York City, and had come from Eastern Europe as children escaping the Holocaust. 00:03:00
CX: So, what brought you to Davidson?
SG: So, field hockey, and, and the quality of the academics.
I was a very good athlete in high school and growing up and was being recruitedin soccer and field hockey at the time. So, I feel old. It's 20 years ago that I graduated. So, at the time, in high school I, I was a big athlete, but I also wanted, essentially, was looking for, a college scholarship and wanted a small liberal arts education. As you guys know, Davidson is one of the few colleges that has Division I sports, that offers college scholarships, and that has an unbelievable academic reputation.
So, you know, I also was a little bit of a rebel and as much as you can be a rebel in... I grew up in a fairly affluent neighborhood, went to a very good public high school, all my friends were going to Northeast schools or aiming at Ivy League Northeast schools, and I was going to go to North Carolina and be different and be just as good as you know the Williams, the Amherst the, you know, the different schools that weren't offering me college scholarships. So, I ended up there, essentially being recruited.00:04:00
I was a goalkeeper in field hockey I signed a national letter of intent, and it got me into... I wanted to go to a school that was small and that had very goodacademics, so it seemed like the right mix... at the time. At 17 years old, it seemed like an okay choice, and also North Carolina, you know, I mean the weather is good, it was a pretty, pretty campus, I was brought down for a recruiting visit, and the girls knew how to make, you know, people like me have 00:05:00fun, so that we would choose [Davidson].
A lot of the kids on the field hockey team then were from the Northeast, so itfelt somewhat comfortable on the recruiting visit and, and I was swayed that way.
CX: Uh, so were you involved in Jewish life at Davidson?
SG: There was no Jewish life at Davidson.
I had a very difficult college experience because of being Jewish, and if I reference back, my Catholic father/Jewish mother kind of, it was very normal,that situation was very normal.
When I went to Davidson, I felt incredibly Jewish. I felt... It was a place that was very isolating, and as much as there, there really, I mean, in my opinion, that really wasn't Jewish life. The college chaplain was very good to try to talk to Jewish students-- there were maybe 12 to 15 openly Jewish students. It was something that some people I knew hid, which is, you know, crazy to think about. I started college I think in '94, I graduated in '98. This was not normal. This isn't-- I mean it's-- It wasn't normal at all. It's very strange coming, from where I came from, in a very diverse environment. It wasn't that it was unexpected, but I-- I knew a couple of Jewish students. I had, I was connected with a kind of "big sister," who was Jewish two years above me, and she lived in Charlotte, or her family lived in Charlotte, so I would do Passover with her family but, that wasn't really coordinated by the school. I think the school was there to provide support, but I would say there was no Jewish life at Davidson and... and if anything, you know, it was very hard to consider that, that that is even a thing now00:07:0000:06:00
TD: How would you say you... I guess, negotiated your Jewish identity andnavigated that within your sports team, the field hockey team?
SG: That's a good question. Really good question. So, the sports team... so, okay, I come from a liberal background: Civil Rights activist parents... Thecollege was very-- felt very conservative, among the student body, politically, when I was there, and that tied into a kind of a religious feeling, but--or, and-- and the athletes, I was friends with the athletes, that's what you do, the field hockey team, they were my first friends. Most of them, or, or half of them, were from the Northeast: New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, so I had more of a rapport with them. I think, I think they would have been exposed to more diversity in their high schools and their upbringing, but I, but I don't really know. I mean, that was one place I felt safe. I had a lot of friends. 00:08:00
There's a long story-- I have a long story. Well, it's not a long story, but it's a, it's a very formative story of my life that includes me speaking out for Jewish people at Davidson when I was a sophomore... So that it kind of tails into everything, but my teammates were good friends of mine, and I went through a lot of, or one significant thing, where the entire school kind of found out I was Jewish, and I can all tell you all about that, obviously, if you want to hear about it.
But the there was a group called the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and it was a student group, and they used to leave New Testament Bible quotes on the00:09:00field hockey locker room door. Now, I don't know if they were leaving on every door, but given my experiences before that, I thought it was a little bit of a taunt. And my teammates would rip the-- rip them down, and they always loved candy, so I'd see the candy in the locker room, and like the posters were gone.
So, in that respect, I felt like, I mean, it's a subtle sign, but my teammates kind of knew what I was dealing with. And then I... field hockey is in the fall, and this was not, this is also not something new, but in high school, the school was closed on the High Holidays the Jewish High Holidays, like Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, and it obviously wasn't in college and that's probably normal across college, not just Davidson. But occasionally, I had to play on those holidays, and I could have not played, but I always chose to play, so I had an internal, I mean that's an internal thing that caught, probably would have happened at many colleges, but maybe other colleges wouldn't have scheduled games on those days. Who knows. And there was this famous baseball player in history, Sandy Koufax, who my mom used to tell me about, because I guess I should've followed his lead. He was like you know one of the great Jewish athletes in history, and he would skip games. So, I didn't skip games, and then I would just feel guilty, and guilty, and guilty.00:10:00
But yeah, I mean, you know everything is fraught at 18, 19, 20, years old. Everything carries a lot of drama, I think.
TD: Oh yeah, oh yeah, yeah. Good! So, you made a little bit earlier about therewas this formative time... or maybe a better story of when you did speak out for, for Jewish students at Davidson. Could you, could you share a little bit about with us? 00:11:00
SG: Yeah, I think I stood out for non-Christ-- stood up for non-Christian students, because I don't think there was a lot of Jewish students. But my freshman year, I lived in Canon-- is that still there?
TD and CX: Yeah
SG: It's the same place, right? Then the main school building was, like, youwalked out the door, and then it was right there. Right? There's a big building there.
So, my freshman year in the spring, around now, probably, around Easter time,there were three huge crosses erected on the lawn, like between Cannon and the school-- Chambers, that's what it was called, right? And so, my freshman year, at the beginning of the school year, freshman hallmates of mine tried to proselytize me. When they found out I was Jewish, one girl asked me to go to church. You're surprised, but this is like, this lives with me every day. 00:12:00
TD: Oh, yeah.
SG: But she asked me to-- like this one girl in particular on my hall asked meto go to church every Sunday.
And beyond the Jewish thing, there was racism and other things that I was picking up on.
So yeah, so by the time I get to spring of that year, when I see these crosses,I'm just like, "what is going on here?" I mean, they were enormous, like, crazy enormous crosses. And you know, it's a Christian tradition or it was a Davidson tradition, and at the time, also, my grandmother was-- either had just died or was dying. And that was my mom's mother, so like my link to Judaism. And so, it was just really screwed up, and I couldn't believe it, and I didn't say anything about it.
But some people, I think they were seniors, like wrapped them in comic paper,00:13:00the crosses, and then put like little bunnies around it. So, there were people there saying, "what is this?" like, why is this... You know, it's basically putting it right in front of your place of, you know, scholarship.
So anyway, fast forward one year, it happens again. This time, I lived down thehall-- down the hill-- but they were still there, and they were still in the building that we took all of our classes in. And so, I was totally incensed by this, and I thought the people that kind of spoke out against it the year before, just by kind of, I mean, vandalizing them, to be honest... I ended up responding this year, my sophomore year, by writing an editorial in the Davidsonian.
And in the Davidsonian, I basically wrote, like, the crosses, you know, this isa Presbyterian College, I'm aware of that. The crosses should be, you know, 00:14:00could be, better put right next to the church. You know, mixing religion and education, like, you know, it is not I don't know. I-- I was actually more eloquent then, than I am now. When I wrote the article, I used words like, "I feel that", you know, such and such, so no one could really question.
You know, I felt like Davidson had a brochure that recruited students sayingthat there was a growing population of non-Christian students, and that wasn't seemingly true to me. Because how could they possibly allow this to continue? Where there are these huge, imposing crosses, like, right outside of the school building, when the reality is, a lot of students didn't like it. Christian, Jewish, whatever, they, they didn't feel it...
Obviously, a lot of students didn't notice that this would be a problem for other people. So, I wrote this article. The article's published, and as soon as it's published, like, all hell broke loose00:15:00
in my life: I got hate mail, I got... The school then set up a forum for... It was a religious forum to kind of talk about everything. And it was in one of those halls... Phi Hall? I'm like having recall here.
CX and TD: Yeah.
SG: And they promoted it with this yellow sign, which I almost tried to find before this, but I didn't have time. I know I kept it. But there is this yellow sign and had a big Jewish star-- that was me-- and then a cross. And they were saying, you know, come to this religious forum, and there is no other-- there's like maybe two other Jewish people that I even know-- so, clearly, I was...
I was put on a panel of about five or six students. And there was a Catholic, aself-proclaimed Buddhist-- he wasn't really Buddhist-- but he was he was the one good hippy at the school at the time. We know it was a very conservative place. And then there was the leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and there was another leader of the other one the other group that was, like, IVCF? I 00:16:00don't know if that's still there. They were really homophobic, and they were a group of kids I really didn't like, which now this is on their record, but they were it was, it was, just--
TD: It's gotta be
SG: --but... so there were these two, like, fundamentalist, in my mind, they'refundamentalist Christian groups that, you know, that met and had a big following. So anyway, they put me on a panel and-- maybe the college chaplain-- but the panel was really about me.
And so, Phi Hall was packed. It was "standing room only". Like, these Christiangroups, one of them had a meeting that on a Wednesday night, and they so they all came into the Hall, and I had, you know, my friends in the audience, which, you know, [included] my one Jewish friend, who I had a good sight of-- line of sight to --which was important, and then some of some other friends. My roommate at the time was amazing. But anyway, they wanted to talk about essentially religious diversity and, like, do we need these crosses? This is it, basically, they were trying to allow people who didn't agree with them to talk. But all the-- in my memory-- all of the questions were directed at me. 00:17:00
SG: One person stood up, nearly crying, asking me how I was gonna get to heaven without Jesus.
People asked me like crazy questions, like crazy! Like totally crazy questionsjust in that respect. And my, my roommate was a... is an Episcopal... she almost became a minister, but she hasn't yet. But she spent-- she was up all night. She 00:18:00came from a like a very... The kind of background where you'd think she would have kind of spoken for the students that were for the crosses. But she had she stayed up all night the night before reading her Bible, and she defended me with the Bible, like about you know basically evan-gel-lism, evangelism. Um, you know, she found a passage that supported, like, why this shouldn't be going on, and I was like floored by that. One of the greatest moments of friendship I've ever seen.
Um and, then, a student who was maybe a senior? Said I should feel lucky because they used to put someone on a cross around Easter time and parade him around. So, this is where I'm just like, you know, what am I doing at this college? It was insane. Some of the things that came up were crazy.
And once I identified myself as Jewish, it's a very small college. Everyone onthat campus knew it. It wasn't something I was hiding. I didn't care, but it maybe I didn't realize how much... discomfort... it's a worse word than that. Prejudice-- whatever it was--was against my point of view because I decided to come to a Presbyterian college. 00:19:00
You know that line is like, "you chose us," and my defense to it was, "No, youchose me." I was heavily recruited. I "up" your numbers in everything. I was a very good student; I have a PhD from Harvard now. I like, I, I could have gone elsewhere to college, but I was recruited. And I chose to school for the many good things about it. One of which is probably like the kind of course you're in. Like I loved, I loved the academics. But, but the rest of it... That was my sophomore year, and it was towards the end of the year, and at the end of that 00:20:00night, you know, it was very strange.
I mean I had people coming up to me, after writing that editorial, at parties,asking me to get involved in minority affairs. I became the first white person who headed the Committee of Minority Affairs basically because of that editorial. And again, in 1990 four, five, six, and seven? The college did not even recognize Martin Luther King Day as a holiday. So, under every person before me-- and the irony is lost that I was the first non-black student head of this one organization-- we... I worked to basically pass that as a holiday. With other students, obviously, but it had it had failed repeatedly. And that also was... It seemed like it was like decades behind the time.
So, in a way, that, that situation propelled me into these spaces that I might not have found, like I had got involved in an alternative newspaper and found some you know interesting people that were not athletes and the kind of out of my sphere. But it also really made me want to leave.00:21:00
It was really, really horrible, um, in like the aftermath of all of that, I ended up, the next day, going to some administrative office on campus, uh basically trying to figure out how I was gonna transfer, because I couldn't stay at a school like that. You know, where someone's crying asking me how I'm not gonna get into heaven because of Jesus, and, you know, "you chose us, we didn't choose you," I mean, this kind of thing publicly was it was crazy. Because it seemed like the entire thing was just to say, you know, just get in line you,you know this is, this is the school we have. 00:22:00
One of my professors, you know, in, in a Spanish class like made some weirdcomments about you know being Jewish to me in Spanish. Nobody [knew] the word for "Jew" in Spanish, but I did. So, you know, some, some things some things just kept happening, and I just obviously wasn't very happy, so I walked into the administrative office, and you know how small Davidson is-- was probably smaller, a little bit smaller than it is now. They just handed me the papers. I don't even remember saying anything. I mean they knew exactly why I was there, and I obviously did not, I obviously did not transfer. So, I was convinced to stay.
I had Magdalena Maiz-Peña. Do you guys know her?00:23:00
TD and CX: Yeah.
SG: The most amazing professor ever.
When I was... when I was, I think a freshman... one thing led to another, andshe found out I was Jewish, and she started cultivating my interest in Latin American Jewish literature, because that's what she would do, and I basically stayed in college to study with her. And I don't regret that at all, but the Davidson College library at the time had one of the biggest Jewish Latin-American collections that there was, which-- it's very esoteric-- anyway, but um she, she kind of tried to keep me interested.
And it was really interesting because in terms of school, because it was--Catholicism is-- Latin Latin American countries are Catholic and, you know sort 00:24:00of like bringing together, all these things. And then there's all these of minority experiences that I was reading about in Spanish classes, and such. So, there were other reasons to stay, but I really stayed because I was convinced that I could make the schoolwork for me in terms of what I came, for which was really the academics.
I don't know, you know, I mean it's 20 years later, and I probably wish I had gone to a different college.
SG: I mean, it's not even a "probably," it's a hundred percent.
SG: Yeah, so, you know, I could have gone to the Northeast and not been a rebel and you know had you know not encountered almost any of any of that, but obviously it was college, too, so I did have some fun. It wasn't all it wasn'tall bad. I had friends that understood me, it was those, those times, you know, that, that color my entire experience there; because especially when I became sort of a known Jewish student, quantity, on campus... I don't know, life just was different, you know, it's like, you know, there were certainly people that I didn't want anything to do with, especially after that one event, because they were just mean and not tolerant. And they were very conservative! 00:25:00
You know that the argument of, you know, of, "if you're tolerant, you should tolerate the intolerant" it was, like, that's what people would say to me. So, when I went abroad for a semester, when I wasn't on field hockey the next year, that helped a lot. And I chilled out a little bit. I tried not to get embroiled in these things, because, I mean, part of it is that I inserted myself into it.
I just, I just couldn't believe I was going to a school like that, where the... you know and I, and I honestly don't think, I don't think they put the crosses up the next year. And I don't even know that! I don't even have the outcome in my in my memory of that, because I wasn't there, because I was in Spain.00:26:00
Yeah, it was a crazy, crazy time for me personally, and then there's people thatI've met since graduating college, who either live in D.C., and you know, for one reason or another, I didn't know them very well [while at Davidson], who have no idea any of that even went on. Like, your own experience is your own experience. Now, friends are very in tune with that having happened to me.
Um, and you know, I don't have a relationship really as an alumnus of Davidson.I don't go to the reunions, I mean I don't, I don't give, and it's, it's all tied into that. And it's, it's, it's kind of sad, but... you know they used me, and that's how I felt. 00:27:00
SG: And time gives you some perspective, but you know there's certain things inlife that really, really grip you, and that's something that I wouldn't probably say I've changed my opinion about, you know how it was for me. I wasn't overreacting, [Davidson] was really stifling for anyone who was even remotely different from a white, Protestant person.
It was really, really, really a place that didn't have much diversity of any kind: racial, ethnic, religious, it was... I don't know 1%? You know, it was really, it was really... really different from Washington D.C. And you know and it's very different now, I think, which, actually, you know,It seems very different now, if I'm to believe that college literature-- which I don't always, because it's not always true-- but it seems like they've done a much better job of, you know, diversifying the student body.00:28:00
But, you know, without diversity, it's real hard to be a lone voice. I know I took a class on the Holocaust at Davidson, and that was really hard for me. And it was a great class, but it was like-- I felt weird, because I was the student in class that, I thought, had ties to this at this event. And, I don't know, I just felt like protective of, you know, that history, because I didn't feel like people were going to treat it with the respect it deserved, just based on my experience at the college.
Um, you know at that point. So, yeah... it was a weird college experience, and,and I know Davidson... Well, many people I still keep up with, you know, have really fond memories, and you know, the sweet spot for this school. And, you 00:29:00know I don't, really. I mean, I have a feeling about some of my professors there, and I still want to see them, would like to hear from them, you know, I would love to think about certain things, but I, I don't have a whole lot of connection to the place. And I don't know if I-- don't know, I mean, a lot of it has to do with having gone there as a Jewish student, but it's not all that. I mean some of it just could be moving on, you know, but who knows.
CX: I'm glad you got support from Dr. Maiz-Peña.
SG: She's incredible. Yeah, oh my God, I know, she is my one of my favoritepeople of all times. I've been back to Davidson a few times since graduation-- 00:30:00never on reunions 'cause I boycott them in a sense, and it's probably ridiculous, but I do. But the last time I went... It's, it's been too long, because I even stayed with her. I mean we were really close. She really, she really helped me through all of that. And she knew what I needed, which was, you know... I am now an adjunct professor, and so I was really into school. Yeah, so she kind of gave me what I needed, and then gave me, like, a Jewish flavor, to it and, and she's up she's awesome, anyway. Because she was trailblazing then, you know?
TD: Thank you for sharing that.
SG: Well, of course.
I think it's important to record in Davidson history. It was it was a tough time, and I really hope it's getting better. I'm even surprised there is there are enough students there to have a Jewish student, you know, organization and all these things that I'm getting messages about. I think it's great. I'm also scared for those students, and I want to help as much as I can. But, uh, you know.00:31:00
CX: So, you shared about your experience of antisemitism on the campus. I waswondering to what effect did you experience antisemitism in the Davidson town community?
SG: Um, I didn't, because I didn't really have an experience in theDavidson town.
I don't think that Davidson town was following campus events on the granularscale. I, you know I, I found the town very southern when I went to college. In terms of antisemitism in North Carolina, or even in Davidson, I didn't really experience it. I was, you know, I was in the library, or on a bus going to a field hockey game most of the time, so I didn't really do much. And the town, I think, has gotten better, because then there really wasn't much there. Yeah. 00:32:00
I don't-- I mean, I recalled stories about the KKK meeting in a pub like in the town and hearing things about that, but I never actually saw that. But I, you know, I believed it was happening
SG: but I didn't have any I didn't have any threatening events, you know, thatmade me feel unsafe in any way in the town.
TD: Yeah. Yeah. And you spoke a little bit about how you view Davidson now and how it's hopeful in a way that there there's enough students to have Jewishorganizations, and a lot of this project of ours was inspired by like the unmasking of students with the neo-Nazi affiliation, last November. What was what was your reaction in response to that? Like, how, how did you process that? 00:33:00
SG: Well, I texted a lot of people. I, you know-- it's really sad. I'm really saddened by that. And I give the climate of the country more credit than I wouldever attribute that to being a Davidson thing.
Even with my experiences there, I know enough to know that that is going on, oncollege campuses everywhere. I'm very close right now to American University, where I have taught, like, you know, part-time, and there's all kinds of stuff going on, on that campus, with all kinds of racial problems and taunting and just really terrible things. So, I wasn't-- I mean it was horrible to hear that. I had thought that that way the college responded to that was swift and good and appropriate. 00:34:00
Um, but, like a swastika in when I was in school or is something, that I would have seen, that wouldn't have surprised me, and that maybe I wouldn't have even reported, I don't know.
I mean-- I don't-- yeah I think that, in line with everything going on in the nation, I think it's this very scary time to be Jewish.
But I don't know, it saddens me that it's happening at Davidson, and, you know,hopefully... I know the school takes those things very seriously. That's something that you can always count on. That they will support the student body. So yeah, I heard, I heard about that, and I was, I mean, it was hard to believe, actually, but on the other hand you hear about these things all over the place right now it's, it's really it's really sad. It's really sad. 00:35:00
CX: I'd like to hear more about your experience at Davidson. You talked a bitabout the the support that you got, obviously, from Dr. Maiz-Peña and your teammates, and I was just wondering if you can talk more about your relationship with other students, faculty members, even like administration maybe? And yeah, well--
SG: Well, I was, I had a couple of professors who I did a... it was Dr. Maiz-Peña and Dr. Annie Ingram, who were advisors of mine. I'd created my own major. So, you know, because, I created my own major in Comparative Literature, which was [through the] Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.00:36:00
So, between-- so I had a key to that little building do you-- is that still there [referring to the Carolina Inn]? I spent so much time in that building, like, it was like my home. I, yeah, I think um... so, I created that major after that whole thing happened my sophomore year, and it became like my motivation for-- I'm gonna study what I want to study, I'm gonna do what I want to do, I'm gonna work with who I'm gonna work with.
It was helpful, so I would say I had a good relationship with the professorsthat advised that; I had a group of friends... most of whom were athletes but not all of them. I'm trying to think. You know, my roommate in my sophomore year who read her Bible the night before that whole thing? She came into college as a freshman with an very narrow worldview. And you know, her mind just like opened, and, you know, but I'm very close with her now. And she is like totally on the other side of the spectrum. She was a good support, and I had boyfriends who I basically, like, hid from the world with. I mean, like my sophomore year, I had my boyfriend who lived off campus. I spent a lot of time there and just not dealing with the regular campus life that other kids dealt with. And same with senior year, I kind of, you know, kind of just let myself just have a little fun and, and just be more normal and not in the regular kind of everyday frat life type thing, you know. I, I spent a lot of time with you know a select few people and a lot of time in the library studying. 00:38:0000:37:00
But administrators... I don't remember anyone particularly helpful. I don't, Idon't also remember going to seek help, so, I mean, that could have been part of it. Um, the college chaplain, Rob Spach, he was very nice and accommodating, and he, and he, you know, he went through that forum, he, you know, he he tried to organize, you know, Passover Seder-type things. So, um, but I wasn't close with him. I just knew he was there, and he was a, you know, he was a good support, and I mean, honestly, the Peñas, both of them, were like my godsend at that school. Um, you know, every day at the Carolina Inn, she, you know, she would come yell for me out the window, like tryin' to get my attention. I mean, you know, I remember Dr. Ingram coming to like a field hockey practice to give me a paper. You know, I mean, this is this is why you go to Davidson, right? Because that kind of personal touch. 00:39:00
So, you know, it's weird how life works, but I, you know, I don't feel that close to that many people I went to school with, but probably, I'm still close with at least 15 to 20 friends, and I'd love to see them and hear about their lives and hear, you know, all of that. And some of them were very closely, you know, watching what was going on with me, and some of them were just totally clueless about it, so, you know, that's college, I guess.
TD: I'm a little interested we said you got involved with an alt newspaper. Wasthis Libertas?
SG: It was, yeah, yeah,
TD: Could you talk a little bit about your experience with Libertas and how youfeel like you brought your like experience as a Jewish student to that organization? Or if you shared your perspective after what happened sophomore year? 00:40:00
SG: I don't know. It was more like a place for the people who were different, or, you know, I definitely spewed a lot of-- I mean sometimes, I, like every now and then, if I move I mean it's every many years, and I find these articles that are around, I'm like, "Oh God! What was I doing?" You know, but there are like liberal screeds about something, you know, about, you know, I don't know, it wasn't always about racism.
A lot of, a lot of my, a lot of my life had been poised to kind of fight against racism, because my parents were huge Civil Rights activists. My dad was a civil rights lawyer, and, and then, like, everything I saw at Davidson reminded me ofsome racist thing, so I would write about that, or just write like kind of quirky things.
I don't remember after writing that, that editorial in the Davidsonian, I don't00:41:00remember ever really doing that again. I mean, it was one of, you know, probably one of the most powerful pieces of writing I've ever written in terms of how it, you know, launched my life. You know, it impacted my life, and Libertas at the time had an editor who was openly gay,
TD: Is his name Zac Lacy?
SG: Zac Lacy. Yeah, one of my friends. Just horrible, horrible. if I look at everything, and I start piling up all these things, you know, you the one gay student, the one openly gay student at the time, because it something youcouldn't be, he killed himself. And that happened, he was a year older than me, but I was, you know, friendly with him, friends with him from Libertas, and it was just tragic. And, you know, there are many of us thought that, that place killed him. 00:42:00
Now, probably not, but, you know, it was not a good place for people who weredifferent, and people who were openly different. So, when, when I do "the synopsis of Davidson College and everything wrong with it," that's always part of the story, too. It's like you couldn't... [The idea of being] "openly" Jewish, as it were, is almost laughable. I mean, nobody cared, you know, where I was from, what it was to be Jewish. Like, it that was fine, you know.
Unfortunately, now, it's getting scarier to be Jewish in America, but then it really wasn't. But so... at Davidson, it was it was jarring that it was something that was looked at that way. And the community just was not kind to people who were different and who were fighting to be different, like Zac was.
So but... It was a... it was an interesting group of people, and um, you know, fun in its own way, and I did it when I could. I was so busy with everything. I definitely do find some of the things I wrote and shake my head about them,00:43:00because they're just this kind of weird, you know, alternative, like not in a narrative form, who knows. I was doing, you know? Everyone's a poet, right? [Laughs]
CX: [to Taylor] do you have any more questions about her time at Davidson?
TD: No... I mean I might, we'll see.
CX: Okay, like, in that case, I was, like... I'm wondering like does your relationship with your faith evolve or change after your time at Davidson?
SG: Um, you know, it's since Davidson that I, I will I will almost never tell anyone straight up off the bat that I am half Jewish, because I'm Jewish, and, you know. So, I mean, I used to play that card-- when I was a little kid, because you know I got extra presents, or some stupid reason, right. But I, I definitely felt a lot more Jewish when I was at Davidson.00:44:00
I felt a lot of guilt for being at Davidson. Both of my maternal grandparents died while I was in college, and I just felt like, "God, I had betrayed everything," that I'm even here. And so, when I left college, I was solidly Jewish, but I came right back to where I grew up in D.C., and I have continued to, you know, observe the High Holidays and be in the kind of you know a Reform-- I am a member of the Reform tradition, which means I, I'm not that religious. I'm, you know, religious in spirit and culture more, than I am in religion, but that's something that I was, have inherited from my grandparents, who kind of rejected the idea of, in some ways, of God, after the Holocaust. So, that kind of American Jew, that's Reform Jews, is a camp that I'm solidly in.00:45:00
And I'll, you know, I'll be a-- I would say, maybe being in college strengthenedit, made me feel kind of more responsible, able to participate in their religion. I had never been to Israel until this past year, so I went to Israel in November of 2018, and, and now, after going to Israel, I feel really Jewish. You know, like something is... something happened there, where I feel like a lot more connected, but I don't know. I don't really know the answer that question, to be honest. I, I think that, it made me view my identity, I guess, more-- it solidified my Jewish identity more than this mixed religious identity that I had when I was little. 00:46:00
I mean, the reality was I was always Jewish. The synagogue and the rabbi,everyone's going to tell you, "your mother's Jewish, you're Jewish, you're in synagogue." It wasn't going to church, right? So, it's just something that I didn't, I didn't really think a whole lot about until I was at Davidson thinking, "Oh my God," like, "I can't speak for millions of people," and, you know, it made me appreciate the position that a lot of minorities have in a lot of situations, where they have to stand and talk for an entire religion, like I had to do that night, like that I had to defend, you know, centuries and centuries of persecution, you know... and I wasn't equipped for it. 00:47:00
I wasn't trained for that, and I've spent I spent a lot of time after college... I have a masters and a PhD in American Studies, so basically, I did college again-- I did the Center for interdisciplinary studies as a PhD. Because why not just keep studying the same stuff? But there I, I so I studied ethnicity, race, difference, the American dream, and all these things that certainly, certainly were influenced by my time at Davidson and also interests of mine based on my experience there.
My, my essay for graduate school was all about that event I told you. Well, it was-- the hook was that event and everything that happened afterwards. I hadbecome a journalist after college, so I had-- this my essay sort of tied together that article I wrote at-- in the Davidsonian, of becoming kind of my voice, and, and then my experience with being different and kind of being targeted in a way, in many different ways, based on the different things that people would say to me over the course of those years, and to the point where my advisors in my dissertation defense, which is, you know, five plus years after I, I applied to graduate school, like talked about essay in my in, my, in my defense. You know, I don't know, you know, it's maybe it's just something that stuck with them. 00:48:00
But anyway, long story short, I, I still feel, I still feel culturally Jewish.
I will never live in a Southern state, based on my experience at Davidson. I don't really like to travel to them. I always felt weird when I went to Georgia, or these places that my friends were from. And I don't know if I was reading into it or not-- I'd see Confederate flags and get scared, and then now I see them here, where I live, so it's like... I don't know what's happening. But, I-- there are things in life that I just decided for certain at Davidson. I will never live in the South, you know, I will never go to a reunion, I will never do all these many, many things, and I will always be a Jewish student who went there, and I will cultivate my, you know, Judaism. Probably the way that I have-- before and since-- but college has made me very much more aware of how hard life can be for minorities-- beyond being Jewish, right?00:50:0000:49:00
But I, I think that it colored my view of, of the lack of progress the countryhad made at that point. Because, when I was going to go to Davidson and my high school classmates were saying, "Oh my god it's-- isn't that a religious school? It's gonna-- it's so conservative!" I [was like], "No no no." I mean, yeah, we studied these things in school, but this is, you know, it's 1994, you know, and they were absolutely right.
And so, I, Aand then when , I, and then when I was in Davidson, I would telleverybody, "Oh my god! D.C. is so much better." And then, of course, you come back to D.C., after college, and see, if you're looking for it, you're gonna find it, right? You're gonna find the racism, you're gonna find the antisemitism maybe, I mean, I, I wasn't finding antisemitism, but, but, if you're, if you were looking close enough, you were gonna know that everywhere you go there are these things. 00:51:00
SG: In college, all I could do is tell everyone how great D.C. was. And then Icame-- and I still think it's great. I love D.C., but it's not without its problems. And it's not a perfect place, and, and I think that's something that was that it that I think was good to know, you know. , Eeven though I still make a statement to you guys, and I won't live in the South, like I understand that, you know, there's terrible things right now going on, but even then, when I graduated, there, there was plenty of bigotry everywhere I looked. At Davidson, I was looking for it, like, 90 percent of time. I was looking for it. Because I felt like, if I didn't stand up, some, you know, like, I just felt like somebody had to speak out to it.
Um, and I don't-- I speak out aboutto it now, and I, I will won't spend my life,you know, kind of hoping and working towards making sure that we don't dial 00:52:00backwards in a way that, you know, that will make the country apart for many people, like, like it is now. It's a very surprising thing to be talking to you, you know, with, with what's happening with, uh, in the country, in terms of intolerance for so many people. So that I would not have predicted. But, um, yeah. I mean, I am in the world as a Jewish person-- as a Jewish woman-- and I, and I feel committed to continuing that, going to services and, you know, living life.
The Jewish people are activists for justice, and there are certain organizationsthat I am involved in. I don't know if that's influenced by Davidson or not, but I certainly felt, uh, I felt very Jewish when I was in school, because I had to speak for all Jews, everywhere, at all times. 00:53:00
CX: Um there was something earlier in the interview when you're saying how theidea that you chose Davidson, but really Davidson chose you. Um, I'd like to offer, like, some-- another interview that we did was a Dr. Ruth Ault. She was the first--
SG: Oh, yeah.
CX: Yeah, the first Jewish professor at Davidson. And something that she saidwas, her contract, they said that they-- it would be okay for her to be Jewish, as long as she respected the Presbyterian tradition. And so, it's kind of this idea, that like, Davidson wants you, but you have to [play] the quiet Jew.. Yeah.
SG: That is exactly what it is. I remember I took a class with her my freshmanyear. I think as a, you know, because I think she taught, like, Psychology 101 or something.
But, um, there was some kind of vote, and I don't, you know, I don't remember00:54:00the situation. I was in Rusk, which embarrasses me now. But I was at Rusk, Rusk at least I was in for the beginning-- that's where the hockey team was-- and there, and I think it was there, that there was some kind of vote about the College Board of Trustees had to be Presbyterian, and I think maybe there was a vote saying like, oh, no-- it was do they, should they have to be an active Christian.
It wasn't even, like, a non-Christian, and I remember hands going up aboutthis., like it was a, I don't know, I don't know how do you do a vote [on something like this], you know, I didn't, I don't understand it, looking back on it, but, and I looked at some of my friends, like there was some vote that was clearly about, like, yes you have to be an active Christian to serve on the Board of Trustees. And, and so people were voting against what that means, including my friends... I had friends of mine who tried to hide their views from me, but it was sort of like this, it was like the college isn't-- and I could do everything possible to elevate that the colleges reputation, but in the end, I could never serve as a trustee, not even as a, you know, not even a non-active Christian, which would be what? Someone who doesn't go to church? 00:55:00
SG: But and I don't know that they allow non-Christians on there now, but at thetime, we were voting on those, these issues, and some of my, you know, quote unquote "friends" were voting against my, my interest. , and that is, that, you know, I don't follow it, and probably I should, but that was also one of the reasons I, I mean these poor fellow classmates of mine, who used to call, like, right when we graduated college., Yyou know, every year there's a drive for money, and, and they used to call, and this was, they would get an earful, you 00:56:00know, like, like here's why I'm not giving Davidson College money: I can't be a trustee, I can't do this, I can't do that. And maybe like, mark that as do not call. You know?
But yeah, it's, it's potential that, I mean, it's possible that they've changed this, and then in my head, I'm like, you know still kind of holding them responsible for that. But though that, that, that, kind of tenor was exactly what I felt, which was, "Yes, come to college. Yes, it's fine to be Jewish at this school," because it's clearly a question that I asked. Yeah, we have support, yes, you know there's religious community beyond, you know, the Christian, Presbyterian, but, no, don't say anything about it. Allow us to put these crosses in front of your face, in front of your school. Don't you know?
You, you know you chose us, and in the end, like, I could have gone almost00:57:00anywhere to college, and so... Yeah, I guess I did choose to go to Davidson, but I felt like I was extremely, heavily recruited. I was being recruited by a lot of schools, and it was-- it felt like I was so incensed by it, you know, just this feeling that I'm there, yeah, and I just need to be quiet and just, you know, get through it, and on the side, you've got classmates trying to, you know, talk to me about going to church, or you know, tell me that, you know, oh they used to think Jews had horns on their head, and like, these crazy comments, that you'd be like [SG opens her eyes in disbelief and looks around] never in my life had I even heard that kind of talk, because I grew up in such an environment of nobody talked about anything like that. It just, it just wasn't-- it was just alarming, to the point where I just thought, "yeah this stuff is horrible." And it's like, that's not fair, either, but it was my response to it, and I could not believe that the well-educated classmates of mine were coming in with those kinds of feelings. And I wouldn't be surprised if they still had some 00:58:00of those feelings.
You know, I mean, I don't know, you know, I don't, and I don't think it's, it wasn't, it wasn't everybody. But it was that it was the people making a lot of noise about it. So yeah, it was a difficult place to be different. You know, really difficult, and I don't I don't know if it's still that difficult.
TD: Yeah. I-- a lot of your story resonates with like, us expressing, like, ourkind of like,
marginalized identities, and finding that we've had to become political and stuff--
[to Cathy] I don't know speak for you. I mean, what do you, what do you think?
CX: I mean, I really connected to what you said about your CIS major, especiallybecause, um,
so, I just got approved for my major in Transnational Literature, so similar to--
SG: Oh, I've heard of it.
CX: Yeah, and that really stemmed from me not finding the support I needed inthe classes that are here now, and just think, like, realizing that I need to 00:59:00create my own experience to get the education that I need. So, I definitely, that definitely resonated with me. I don't think... I don't think there's that overt discrimination, but there's still a lot of like... there's still like very... there's still problematic speech and attitudes towards people who are maybe, like, more manifested in microaggressions, or, like, people are more scared-- like, there is a liberal presence on campus, so people are less, like, open about their conservative views. But--
SG: Oh, okay.
CX: Yeah, but then again, we also surround ourselves with very, like, liberalcommunity, so I, like, personally, don't know too much about like conservative student communities on campus.
SG: Right, right. Yeah, no, that makes sense. Well at least there's a liberal01:00:00presence. Like, I don't even think I could-- I can't even imagine that. I mean, that's great. That's nice. I'm surprised now to look at, you know, the Facebook of the world, or those types of things and see like, wait, this person's liberal? You know? These people that I knew in college they're just [unintelligible]. Like, wait a second.
SG: Like, were you always like this? And why didn't I know that? You know? Butuh, yeah, I think the creating my own major was, was the only sort of way that I was going to stay there, and I don't know how I even figured that out. But it was like I was going down the wrong path with school, I was-- I love environmentalism, but I really wasn't a scientist, and I was taking the wrong classes, and it was just-- it was-- the whole thing was a struggle.
I was'm like, "You know what? I love Spanish, I love English, I love literature.01:01:00I'll just do what I want." And I ended up doing the best I've ever done in school and having these really personal relationships with professors that were-- who knew what I was going through and who really, like, gave me, like, the keys, like, literally and figuratively, to so many things. It lets me go on trips to Mexico to study-- to talk to Jewish people in Mexico, like, over, over a holiday, the holidays, you know, just like kind of hooked me up with these, these experiences, that, I mean, for sure, I would not have gotten at other schools. I mean, there's no question about that.
I because, I because I know those people are at Davidson, and they're, they're really-- that was a really... that was a really special part of the experience, but the rest of it was terrible. You know? It was, it was really, not... It wasn't fun. It wasn't like... My 20th reunion was last June, and there wasn't even a, mean,01:02:00not even like half a percent of me considered going.
SG: Zero interest. It's just like, I have zero interest, you know?
TD: Well, if you do visit, let's all get coffee, us three. That would be awesome.
SG: Yeah, I might, actually! I might actually visit. I'm making jokes about it, but based on, like, some messages about this, I thought, "well I could come down and do this in person," and then I could see Dr. Maiz-Peña and then my friend who moved, uh, there. But I couldn't make it happen.
And then, you know, there's part of me that feels traumatized by my collegeexperience, so, you know, so is it-- I mean, it was important me to, me to, you know, to offer myself as a, um, as a resource for students, current, future, whoever.
If-- I'm also, you know, I've gone down the path of becoming a professor, so I have an affinity towards college students anyway but definitely the students who are different at Davidson. I wanted to make sure that, you know, I offered support. But yeah, I may. I may come down in the next, well, who knows when. I may.01:03:00
TD: Yeah! Okay, well, we'll be here.
SG: You guys are just sophomores, right?
TD: Right, right.
SG: Okay, yeah.
CX: Well, we want to be mindful of your time Is there anything else you'd like, so--
CX: Is there anything else to add to the record today? Anything you'd like to say to future generations? That you haven't touched upon, maybe?
SG: Oh wow. Future generations of Jewish students? Good luck! Get out?
SG: Uhhh, well, I mean, I think, you know, it's, it's a, it's a campus that is, an administration, I think, that [that] is open to help students who are different, and Charlotte, North Carolina, I think, has a good Jewish population, now.01:04:00
I think that, Jewish students should find each other and make sure that their voices are heard, and I think that would be the first place to start, um, and if it seems hard and different, I also think that, with my own experiences, it's never a bad thing to reconsider your choices. You don't have to stick through everything. But obviously, I think that it's important that people are aware of how hard it might be for a student who might look the same but has a very different religious tradition.
Um, and I think it would be worthwhile for students to support each other andthen probably seek support from professors, the administration, the chaplain. The resources seem to be there, um. 01:05:00
But... yeah. I mean, it is a very try-- it was a very trying experience, and I would hope that it's not like that for students now. And if it is, they should definitely not bottle it up and not take it. ;They should and consider talking to people like me or other people who have been there; and try to get the best they can out of what Davidson does offer students, which is a lot of opportunity.
If you find your place at Davidson, you find a good group of friends, or a good you know a good kind of group of study-mates or, whatever, you know. You know, find the things that, that really inspire you. You can make, you can make it work.
I guess I shouldn't keep harping on this, but you don't have to make it work, which is something I think I thought: I had to make it work. And I'm, and I'm grateful that I did, for the academics that I got, but for the social aspect of it, you know, find your, find your people and stick to your people, and I think that, I think that will help a lot.01:06:00
CX: Yeah, definitely.
TD and CX [together]: Wow, thank you so much.
SG: Thank you!
TD: It's awesome... It's inspiring, too, just hearing, like, your final words.Thank you.
SG: Yeah, no. Thank you so much. If I can do anything else for either of you, oryour classmates.
Seriously, I'm extremely accessible, if you want to talk to me outside of this, or ever. Like, I'm not even kidding, whatever you want. I'm happy to help in any way.
TD: Yeah, yeah.
CX: Thank you so much.
SG: You're very welcome.
CX: Um, I did email a consent form to you.01:07:00
CX: If you could just sign that and then scan it back to us, and we'll sign them, and then send you a copy.
SG: Okay. Okay, yeah, I'll do that.
CX: Okay, perfect. Thank you so much!
SG: Okay, thank you!
TD: Have a good rest of your day!
SG: You, too, take care. Nice to meet you.
CX: Bye! Nice to meet you.
SG: Alright, bye!